Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Installation of the Archbishop


Well, Birmingham now has its new Archbishop, His Grace Bernard Longley, following the Installation in St Chad's cathedral yesterday. The service was very beautiful, and it was fitting that Archbishop Bernard chose the Immaculate Conception as the day of his installation, as it is also one of the patronal feasts of the diocese. He spoke eloquently of this Marian Solemnity in his homily:


[Mary's] closeness to God is the first fruit of redemption and it eventually enabled her to recognise and welcome the hand of God directing the course of her life. Yet the most important moment of grace in Mary’s life occurred when she was as yet incapable of sensing or recognising it, still less understanding its importance.

It is often the same with us. Most of us were baptised as babies: the pattern of and potential for our lives of faith was established when we could never have understood or appreciated it. Only later in life we become grateful for what our parents and god-parents did for us and actively live the life of faith we received through their commitment to Christ and to us. Moments of grace often catch us unawares and it is only when we stop and reflect that we can appreciate their significance in the pattern of our lives.

Mary was prayerful and reflected on life’s experiences: she pondered these things in her heart. No doubt, as the life of her Son unfolded before her, she looked back and understood the meaning of what she had seen and heard and felt. St Luke does not disguise the fact that our Lady, even though she was full of grace, was deeply disturbed by the angel’s words. The natural, human reaction of bewilderment and astonishment at something so powerful caused her to face it and accept it. Mary had two moments of amazement: first that she was chosen: Rejoice, so highly favoured one. And then, that her life was to be fruitful with the birth of Christ, that she was chosen to be a mother.

Mary’s experience awakens in us the recognition of an extraordinary grace: we too, each of us, have been chosen and are highly favoured. In the words of St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians: In him we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning. We shall never fully understand the reason for God’s choosing until we come one day to see him face to face, yet we have been chosen, each in our own particular way and together as the Church, to bear Christ to others.

On Saturday the Archbishop will be coming to visit the seminary and celebrate Evening Prayer with us. We look forward to that as a welcome distraction from exam revision!