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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bethlehem -the House of Bread-

Midnight Mass offered for our families, friends
and those who oppose us.

In a letter that I have often needed to quote
Blessed Charles de Foucauld excused himself to his niece by saying:
"The silence of the cloister
is not the silence of forgetfulness".

This year has not been a year for Christmas cards
please excuse us.
Our silence
has not been a silence of forgetfulness.

Last night's Midnight Mass was especially offered
for our families, friends and all
who have been in contact with us over the last year.

In the joy of this Holy Night and Holy Day
we have offered the Midnight Mass for you
asking the Holy Virgin's Infant to bless you from our altar
where He was born for us all.
What can Christmas be without Christ in our hearts?
Where else does He come in His own Flesh and Blood except in the Mass?
O wonderful feast of Christ's-Mass!

In the darkness of this Christmas night His light dawned for us;
A Light the darkness cannot overpower;
He shines in the stable of Bethlehem.

Every Catholic church is Bethlehem,
(for Bethlehem means the House of Bread)
where, under the form of Bread,
in ever Mass,
Jesus Christ is born on our altars
and day and night dwells amongst us in the tabernacle.

Christ, by highest Heaven adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord.
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a Virgin's womb!
Veiled as Bread the Godhead see,
Hail the Incarnate Deity!

Pleased as Bread with man to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark ! the herald Angels sing
Glory to the the new born King.

We wish you a Blessed and Merry feast of Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Calendars Still Available

It is still not too late to order one
of the remaining copies of the

Papa Stronsay Calendar for 2011
or to purchase extras.

Please click the relevant link:


Or, alternatively, if you are not yet
a Catholic subscriber
why not become one
and receive your calendar
with the latest issue.

Please use the button at the top left of this bar
(marked "Subscribe to the Catholic Newspaper")
to do so.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Keeping the silence

From 10th - 21st December
Four Brothers are making their annual Retreat.
Since they are on silence during this time
and each takes his meals in the solitude of his cell
we hear and see little of them until after Mass on St. Thomas.

Retreatant clearing the snow before his cell.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Way of Bethlehem

During the novena for Christmas we make the Way of Bethlehem. It's like the Way of the Cross only the subjects of the stations are taken from the mysteries of Christmas and Christ's infancy: The Son of God Becomes an Infant, Jesus is Born an Infant, Jesus is Nourished, Jesus is Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes, Jesus is Circumcised, Jesus is adored by the Magi, Jesus is Presented in the Temple, Jesus Flies into Egypt, Jesus is Freed from the Swaddling-bands, Jesus Begins to Walk, Jesus Sleeps, Jesus the Fisher of Men.

This year we set up a station in the Ave Marias (small anti-chamber of each cell) of the cells.

We processed from station to station, singing hymns between each.

Entering in to one of the Stations.

Each Ave Maria has a small altar which the occupant of the cell decorates. We use these for the stations.

V. Christ is at hand.
R. Come let us worship Him.

Having completed the 12 stations the processions moves to the Chapel for the concluding prayer.

Knock, and it shall be opened to you. (Matt, 7:7)

The concluding prayers.

This morning the snow and fallen heavily, and continued all day. We tried very hard to get the cat to come in out of the snow, but she was quite content and took absolutely no notice of our entreaties!

The Via Paparum in the snow.

Br. Alphonso putting the leftover crumbs of bread out for the birds.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taking Christ out of Xmas

At this time of year,
it is possible to hear that by writing
Xmas to abbreviate the word Christmas,
we are joining the secular world
taking Christ out of Christmas
as if we had put an X through His Holy Name.

But not so!
Such is not a traditional insight.
This is a false new notion
that threatens to take Christ out of Xmas
and fill us with fear of using the hallowed abbreviation.

This is then a good time to remember
that the use of the letter X
comes from the original Greek of the Gospel
and is one of the very ancient abbreviations in our language
that precisely means

When we look at the picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour
we see that the letters above the Infant Jesus
the abbreviation for
Jesus (IC) Christ (XC).

In the Greek of the Gospels,
the word Christ
Christos is written as Χριστός,
and the letter X
is just the first letter of his name.
Thus the icon writes the first and last letter of Χριστός
Not all did this.
Some abbreviated Christ to the first two Greek letters Xp.

The X in Xmas
is the Greek letter equivalent to the English letters Ch;
monks and priests have used it for centuries
when writing the Holy Name of Christ.

In English Xt is a common ecclesiastical abbreviation fo Christ.
Seminarians with fast speaking professors
often come to writing
Xt for Christ or even Xh for Church.

The most ancient way to abbreviate Christ's name
was Xp
which in English is the same as
(since the Greek for 'r' is written as 'p').
That abbreviation -the XP- shown above to the right of Christ
comes from the catacombs.

The XP is also is often seen on sacred vestments;
it is the abbreviation and monogram for Christ.

The Anglo Saxon Cronicle.

In our own language we find the Greek Xp
first rendered in English as

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle written about 1100 we read
abbreviated to
Xres mæsse.

About the same time that we have this abbreviation for Christmas,
we also have an example in the donation Inventory
written by Bishop Leofric
of England
(1046 - 1073)
who records the gift of a Saxon Gospel thus:

Englisc Xres-boc
English Christ-book
He also used the Xr abbreviation in Xres-boc for Christ-book.

(Illustrations of Anglo Saxon Poetry, John Conybeare, London, 1826, p. 199)

Xmas is an ancient abbreviation for Christmas.
Its use does not "take Christ out of Christmas".
Its use continues the ancient style of
uniting the Greek X of the Gospel to our English language,
as our forebears have done
for nearly a thousand years.

Let us keep Christ both in Xmas
and indeed in Christmas too.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Prayers please for Mother Mary Francesca, O.SS.R.

Was ask your prayers for
Reverend Mother Mary Francesca, O.SS.R.
Prioress of the Redemptoristine Nuns
in Maitland,

Reverend Mother was urgently admitted to hospital
with cancer of the thyroid
she is awaiting surgery on Friday.

Holy Mass was offered for her on Papa Stronsay this morning,
Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Link for updates on Mother Francesca's condition.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The St. Nicholas Snows on Papa Stronsay

Feast of St. Nicholas
the Wonderworker.

St. Nicholas has been venerated on Papa Stronsay
for over 1,000 years.

Our Lady's cloister in St. Nicholas' snow.
While we occasionally have a little snow in Orkney
this year, with the rest of Britain we are having
an unusual abundance.

The Te Deum procession to the Blessed Sacrament,
made daily after dinner and supper,
had added
attraction today.

The lane between the cells
this afternoon at 3.00 p.m.

Blessed Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
to all our readers!

Collect from the 1962 Missal
for the feast.

Deus, qui beatum Nicolaum Pontificem
innumeris decorasti miraculis;
tribue quaesumus;
ut ejus meritis et precibus,
a gehennae incendiis liberemur.
Per Dominum...

O God who didst adorn blessed Nicholas, the bishop,
with miracles unnumbered,
grant we beseech Thee,
that by his merits and prayers
we may be delivered from the flames of hell.
Through our Lord...

Collect from the 1969 Missal.

Misericordiam tuam, Domine, supplices imploramus,
et, beati Nicolai episcopi interveniente suffragio,
nos in omnibus custodi periculis,
ut via salutis nobis pateat expedita.
Per Dominum...

We ask you, Lord, through the intercession of Saint Nicholas,
to keep us safe amid all dangers,
so that we may go forward without hindrance
along the road of salvation.
Through our Lord...

An historical drawing of the St. Nicholas Cross.
The original Cross, found at the chapel site on Papa Stronsay
was dated to be from the
seventh or eighth century.

The St. Nicholas Cross
of Papa Stronsay as a pendant.

St. Nicholas Chapel on Papa Stronsay
was built in the
eleventh century,
over yet earlier buildings,
its ruins alone remain.
The drawing shows the two celled chapel which,
against its North wall has the remains of another older
circular cell.
Another wall,
perhaps the apse and part of an older cruciform structure
lies outside the two celled chapel to the East.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cum Petro: Solemn Prayer Vigil for Unborn Life

Last Saturday evening,
First Vespers of Advent,
in union with our Holy Father in Rome,
Pope Benedict XVI,
(long may he reign!)

and in union with the whole Church throughout the world,
we celebrated a solemn prayer vigil for unborn life
in Papa Stronsay.

The vigil began with Novena
to Our Mother of Perpetual Succour
during which the Blessed Sacrament was exposed
and placed on the Throne.

The First Vespers of Advent followed

Holy Rosary was recited before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.

The Confiteor of Compline.

The Benediction.
May Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
be loved and adored
throughout the world.

May all Catholics live united with
and in submission to

our Holy Father
Pope Benedict XVI.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib...

With temperatures dropping,
last Friday was spent preparing the winter stables.

(left click on the pictures to see them larger)

The ox knoweth his owner...
Jersey bull Joe was the first in
he was segregated into Nazareth stable away from the cows.

"Monk and hammer can do all things."
Soviet citizens will understand!

Straw being laid on the sheeps' side of Bethlehem stable.
The far side is for the cows.

The skies are threatening.
The sheep are on their way in for the winter.

Brother Yousef Marie with the first arrivals.

The ass knows its Master's crib.
The donkey to the left is Gloria,
named after the Gloria in excelsis Deo
first sung by the angels on Christmas night.

This one is Benedicta -
named after the Benedictus qui venit of Palm Sunday.

Donkeys and sheep with this year's lambs...
Surely a remote preparation for Christmas.

The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib...
(Isaias Ch. 1)

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago...

And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold:
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice,
and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
(Jn. 10:16)

What can I bring Him poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb...

The lane between the cells last evening.
Heaven cannot hold Him

Nor earth sustain;
Heav'n and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

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