Today we begin the holy season of Advent. In the gospel, Jesus urges his followers to “stay awake”. This suggests that we need to get ourselves into a particular ‘frame of mind’ which is one of alertness and readiness for the arrival of the Lord. This is linked to one of the central themes of this season which is that God will fulfil his promise of liberation through forging a new kind of relationship with his people. This new era will come about through the agency of a new ‘king’, an anointed one of God who will be known as Emmanuel, ‘God-with-us’. So, God’s place will be next to us, where He will be forever knocking on the door of the human heart.
The question is how might God find the door of our heart; shut, ajar, half open or fully open?Our objective for Advent is to push that door open as widely as we can; this is vital if Christmas is going to have a heartfelt and transformative effect on us. I would like to say that my heart is fully open, but I know full well that it isn’t. This links into anoth-er feature of Advent called ‘repentance’. Basically, this means taking a close and honest look at ourselves, identifying the various resistances or barriers that are pre-sent which hinder us from being open to the loving presence of God. There might be issues that arise from this process that require a deeper, spiritual healing and could therefore be brought to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our regular ‘slot’ for Rec-onciliation is on a Saturday from 5:00 – 5:45pm. Alternatively, the Deanery Reconcil-iation Service is on 16th December, 7:30pm at St Teresa’s, Rochford.
I would certainly recommend that you try and get some extra prayer time in wheth-er that is alone or as a family. If you do have children try to spend some time ex-plaining to them the real meaning of Christmas.
I would also recommend that you purchase the Advent “Walk with me” booklet (£1) as a guide and reflective support through this special time.
Remember, like anything in life, it’s all in the preparation!
Wishing you every blessing for Advent,
Dear friends,Dear friends,
Sorry for this long email, but there is a lot to cover. The information provided here is supplementary to my previous email, so it is important that you are aware of its content.
I would like to take you through some significant points about our opening for Mass – please read carefully.
As I mentioned before, because of the reduced capacity, you will need to book your seat(s) for Mass beforehand and well in advance. Turning up on the ‘off chance’ would most likely result in you not being able to attend Mass because the church could be full.
As we have to provide a ’Track & Trace’ audit trail, the easiest and most helpful way to book is online (please see our Parish website - www.saintgeorgeschurch.co.uk.)
If you are unable to do this, try to find someone else who can. But remember, for ‘Track & Trace’ purposes, they must use your details and not their own. When you book online an email will automatically be sent to Sharon who will allocate your seats and email you back with the details. If it is out of her office hours, she will not be able to get back to you immediately. Please be patient and please be content with the seats allocated for you; we are not able to chop and change. It is an administrative challenge as it is.
If you are unable to do any of the above two options, then please telephone Sharon during her office hours to book it for you.
If you do come along on the ‘off chance’ and there happens to be space, then one of the stewards will need to take a few details from you for ‘Track & Trace’ purposes.
The online booking system will be going live on a Monday and will close at 12 noon on Friday's. This will give you the opportunity to book for Masses on the following week.
Face-coverings in church are currently mandatory. Please arrive in good time before Mass starts.
On reopening our churches for Mass, Cardinal Vincent Nichols offers these cautionary words: - ‘Please be aware that there will be a limit on the number of people who can attend Mass in our churches. We therefore need to reflect carefully on how and when we might be able to attend Mass. We cannot return immediately to our customary practices. This next step is not, in any sense, a moment when we are going ‘back to normal’.
We ask every Catholic to think carefully about how and when they will return to Mass. Given there is no Sunday obligation, we ask you to consider the possibility of attending Mass on a weekday. This will ease the pressure of numbers for Sunday celebrations and allow a gradual return to the Eucharist for more people.'
Arriving at the church
On entering the church, please sanitise your hands and then wait to be assisted by a steward. You should already know your place in the church from when you booked it online or by telephone. However, there will be a ‘seat map’ displayed in the outer porch with your name on it. Pews are identified by letters and numbers, i.e. L1 = Left hand side of church, pew 1.
Please note that the UK Government has stated that Services should be conducted in, ‘the shortest possible time’.
Mass will unfold in the usual way except there will be no singing. We cannot provide Mass cards because of the risk of transmission of the virus. If you have a Missal, please bring it with you. To start off with, the readings will be done by the duty Altar Server.
Procedure for Holy Communion
The Communion Rite has been ‘reworked’ and is quite different! I will explain at each Mass the procedure that needs to be followed, however, here are the highlights: -
• At the place where communion is to be given to the congregation, a physical barrier (prie-dieu) will be there to socially distance the priest from the communicant.
• You must remain seated until you are invited to come forward by the steward.
• When you approach the priest, you should put out your arms at “full stretch” so that there is a good distance between you and him. Your hands, palms upwards, one on top of the other, should be extended as flatly as possible. Communion will then be given silently and in the hand.
• Having consumed the host, you may return to your seat to say a brief prayer of thanksgiving, after which you must leave the church (the Blessing and dismissal has already taken place).
• As you leave the church, please sanitise your hands.
• There will be baskets for you to place your offering in. If there is a 2nd Collection, there will be a basket marked as such.
• Please be aware of others and the social distancing regulations as you leave.
• Please do not congregate in the porch or outside the church.
• After you have left church it will be cleaned.
A note about Holy Communion
If you feel uncomfortable and would rather not receive Holy Communion, that is perfectly ok. Instead, you can simply make a spiritual communion. Here is a prayer to help you: -
My Jesus, I believe that You are truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as being already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
It will take some time for us to adapt to these changes and we may have to make little adjustments along the way, so please be patient and understanding.
I am extremely grateful to Sharon, David and Frank, who have worked very hard – and continue to do so – to make all this happen.
With every blessing,