Read Sermon


A divine wedding feast

St. George's, Hanover Square 7th January 2007 The Epiphany BCP

07 January 2007 00:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece

Happy New Year and Happy Feast of Three Kings or Dreikonig. As part of the New Year Parade on Monday that ended near where I live I was surprised to see beauty queens on make-shift Heath Robinson floats in the procession…though I had no idea that Piccadilly was to be treated to 3 carnival queens from Kent. Miss Dover brought a smile…but when Miss Margate arrived outside Fortnum's it made my day and I giggled. Too soon…for there was a third queen in all her fishy regalia…has anybody else heard of a Miss Ramsgate? What a triumph! Great title…it was a hoot, though I can confirm St. George's puts on a better show than Ken.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

After Christmas I visited Strasbourg Cathedral with its magnificent Pilier des Anges containing 13thC statues about which my Huguenot host wrote her learned Doctorate. Nearby, a huge crib sequence is on display. In three parts…the Christmas nativity of course with the baby…then a slightly more grown up child with his mother from the Epiphany gospel account we heard (though with the creative additions of horse camel and elephant…full scale Aida production values clearly have a long and ancient pedigree)…ending with the scene of Simeon and Anna when Jesus is presented in the temple to fulfil the law of Moses and meet his faithful people.

It was lovely to be reminded in France of the different elements of the mystery of the Incarnation…and of the need to hold them together in harmony. But there are yet more layers that could be added to the orchestration of this mystery. The Benedictus antiphon for Morning Prayer proclaims that 'Today the Church has been joined to her heavenly bridegroom since Christ has purified her of her sins in the River Jordan: the magi hasten to the royal wedding and offer gifts: the wedding guests rejoice since Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.' This mixed historical tradition finds its origin in some Eastern Churches, though these days the Orthodox emphasise the baptism of Jesus. There are a tutti frutti number of themes jumbled in …so please let me know if you ever come across a series of 5 variations on a crib…which might include the wedding at Cana, and the baptism of Christ…as well as the other 3 scenes I've already mentioned. The writer of the 5th Century Office hymn for Epiphany mentions these themes, as does Bishop Wordsworth (1807-1885) in the recent hymn Songs of Thankfulness and Praise.

Actually it is the wedding feast strand that most attracted me as I prepared this sermon. A wedding inaugurates a marriage, when two people who knew about one another prior to matrimony make a whole lifetime's journey involving the deepening of knowledge. Knowledge about someone, becomes knowledge and love of and for the other. Aren't there obvious parallels in the journey of Magi whose quest involved that shift from knowledge about Jesus to actually knowing him. They followed the light they perceived, and were delighted at the sight of the star…they fell to their knees and opened their treasures and offered them to him who is the desire of the nations…and a light to enlighten the gentiles. But why should their gifts be regarded as birthday gifts? Maybe the gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh are wedding presents. Why not? Very significantly, a marriage is the joining together of two parties. In the Epiphany we celebrate the joining together of God and humanity…the Church has been joined to her heavenly bridegroom.

The wise men, we are told went back to their own country by another way. We can think of our life itself as our own country…which, after being touched by divine light…and by truth and grace from above, so affects us...that we return to life and our view on it, in a completely new way. Don't we go back to our own country, our everyday lives, in a different way…not the way of the world, or of the flesh, but by the way of the Spirit. Henceforth we are led not by our own wisdom but by revealed scriptures.

Before I returned from France on The Holy Innocents, I went a rather extraordinary way. Though I confess it was, I suppose, more by way of the flesh. I know well enough that the Rhine is the border between Alsace and Germany, but I had no idea that the Black Forest is so close and that Dr. Anne and her fiance had planned a surprise in Baden Baden…just 45 minutes away. It was all rather surreal, bathing in warm waters on the feast of Stephen at a spa with interior and exterior pools…though the potential for a grand line didn't escape me… 'Oh, I think the Rector always takes the waters in Baden Baden on Boxing Day'. I didn't actually need a cure, and the Christmas excess really had not been that bad!

A few days ago, and a friend from another part of the Black Forest came for lunch, and explained how Catholics would be observing today's feast in Villingen. 3 kings are chosen from amongst an army of servers and dressed accordingly…chalk is blessed which the kings and at the end of Mass they disperse to bless and inscribe the local homes. I'd always been told that C M and B stood for Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, but it seems in Germany the letters stand for Christus Mansionem Benedicat…Christ bless this house. It sounds better in Latin, and the three words have turned out to be a little spiritual gift for me to meditate on at Epiphany.

Christus - companion of the world, the word spoken once and for all, who has visited his people and redeemed them…not visiting in the sense of 'popping by' but a friend who promises to be with me always…to the end of time…a companion I get to know in prayer.
Mansionem - the need to build a Christian home…thanksgiving for our heavenly home and those who now live there…gratitude too for our holy temples…not least this church where we encounter God together and where we bring and receive priceless gifts.
Benedicat - blessings of peace and being at one with God…for that wonderful state of grace after confession which derives from the Word made flesh …born of Mary full of grace…a benediction derived from the Son of the Father full of grace and truth…bestowing on the whole of humanity the blessings of being in a state of grace.

Time for the wedding breakfast, as we continue this heavenly banquet and divine exchange.

Fr. Roderick Leece

Cookies used on this website
New EU legislation requires that all web sites clearly specify the presence of cookies and their purpose. Cookies are used to enhance the user experience. StGeorges uses Google Analytics to track activity on its site, helping to keep the site relevant and easier to use, via the use of these cookies . For an enhanced site experience, consumers will need to consent to the use of StGeorges cookies. A preference cookie, that will become available to you when you choose the ‘I agree’ button, will be a long-life cookie that will not automatically clear when you close the browser window. If you manually delete this cookie you will need to re-confirm your preferences every time you next visit this website, unless you choose accept the long life option.