December 29th, 2019

Deacon Blaine Barclay

Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Every year this feast is part of our celebration of the season of Christmas. The family is taken up into the mystery of the Word made flesh, the Incarnation.

It is easy for us to idealize the experience of the Holy Family. After all they were Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Not at all like our experience of family life which is quite often less than ideal. Sometimes more like the Unholy Family if we were honest.

The Collect prayer for today speaks of the ‘virtues of family life’, and the ‘bonds of charity’. Both Virtue and Charity are often forged in the middle of struggle, and our readings today have a lot of good solid advice to give us about how to grow with what life sends us, which is often less than ideal.

Our first reading from the book of Sirach, says a lot about the dignity of the vocation of being a father or mother, of the respect and honour due to parents. It calls us to show kindness to our parents, especially when they grow old. It is inter-generational in that it connects kindness toward the previous generation with our capacity for joy in our own children. Family, both holy and unholy is always inter-generational and extended.

Our Psalm speaks of children being like ‘olive shoots’ around the family table. Making sense of family life with the metaphor of keeping a fruitful  vineyard. I assume this includes both the need for pruning and fertilizer.

But let’s look at the model of the Holy Family presented for us in the gospel today. Not unlike our own experience of family life, it is a story of a vulnerable family under siege. A story filled with fear and foreboding, fleeing in the middle of the night, on multiple occasions. When you think of it, a homeless Holy Family. Refugees fleeing unthinkable violence, longing for home. Displaced, first from Nazareth, then from Bethlehem, then from Egypt, perhaps a second time from Bethlehem, and finally back home again to the relative safety of Nazareth. Somewhat out of the way of an all-pervasive Roman Rule, and the jealousy of kings.

Joseph is both a dreamer and a man of action. The word of God comes to him in a series of dreams over a number of years. He was a dreamer like the Joseph of old with the coat of many colours, who also ended up in Egypt. No doubt Joseph had a lot of dreams, most of which were of no account and quickly forgotten. Rare is the dream that points to something that we need to pay attention to. But like the Joseph of old, our Joseph was also an interpreter of dreams, one who knew how to listen to the ones that really mattered. In this regard he was not only a dreamer, but a man of action. Not afraid to risk everything in order to keep the family safe, to do what needed to be done.

And so, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, finally come home to the hidden life of Nazareth. No doubt strengthened by the bonds formed by their shared experience of tribulation, displaced by threatened violence, midnight flights, strangers in a strange land. Perhaps it was fear of a resurgence of this violence that lengthened the span of the hidden years. Kids usually leave home before their thirty, don’t they? For Jesus, from the beginning, public life was a risk. Life in the Holy Family was shelter from the storm.

And finally, our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It reads like a recipe for a holy life, or for life in a Holy Family. Here are the ‘virtues of family life’ and the ‘bonds of Charity’ that our Collect prayer spoke of. ‘Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. These are the practical lessons we are meant to learn form the gift of each other in family life. Like the Holy Family they are often forged in the furnace of our shared struggles. The key to everything, as every family knows,  even in our brokenness, is love. How does St. Paul put it. ‘Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony’. Even the struggles, if only they are leavened by the Word of God. St. Paul again, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”, as it did in the Holy Family. As we celebrate the Incarnation, let’s not forget that the Word became flesh as part of a family.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.