Given at the Mass for Religious and Consecrated Life, 30th January 2021 in Westminster Cathedral
‘At last, all powerful Master…’
‘For my eyes have seen the salvation…’
These words from St Luke frame our celebration of this Day for Consecrated Life, year by year.
The longing expressed in the phrase ‘At last…’ echoes our feelings this year, at this time. We have such a longing for an easing of the restrictions which keep us apart. We have a longing for an end to the ravages of this virus; to the deaths it brings and contributes to, deaths which have touched and grieved so many. We long for an end to the isolation and loneliness which shapes not only daily living but, most tragically, the death bed of so many. We pray for all who mourn, all who serve, all who stand and wait.
Maybe each day we mutter ‘At last’ as we climb into bed. I’m sure that many have said ‘At last’ when receiving vaccination. This is a time of waiting which is testing indeed.
But St Luke uses the phrase to emphasise that the waiting is over for the decisive step is taken and the long awaited one is here. ‘My eyes have seen the salvation prepared for us.' Yes, my eyes have seen.
As I look back across the years, through the sentiments of these words, I can recall moments in my life when, indeed, I glimpsed something definite of this salvation, something defining of who I am. I can recall moments of powerful realisation, compelling glimpses of all that Christ came to bring. They touched and inspired me: a vision of the greatness of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God; a desire to serve that vision.
Maybe these were my ‘Simeon moments’: ‘At last, my eyes have seen…’; or my moments like those of Anna, ‘who began to praise God’.
Yet these moments were not enough on their own. We read that Simeon acted. He ‘took the child into his arms.’
For me too, and for each of you, the moment came when we glimpsed God’s purpose not as a broad inspiration but as something that demanded action in order to shape the personal life of each of us. We had to act decisively on what we had seen, a vocation moment, a call, a stepping forward, a binding of ourselves into a particular way of life, a way of service. We too took the child into our arms.
Today we remember with love and poignancy those moments, moments of promise and profession. We thank God for them from the bottom of our hearts, just as Anna and Simeon did at their precious moment. We remember especially those who celebrate special anniversaries at this time. My list, probably incomplete, but announced with joy and congratulations, includes three silver jubilarians, seven golden jubilarians, five diamond jubilarians, and one sister celebrating the 70th anniversary of her profession!
Thank you! Sorry we cannot meet today in the Hall of Westminster Cathedral but here we meet and are together in the Heart of Jesus, and what better place to be!
Lord we praise you.
Lord we thank you.
Lord protect us and keep us always in your love.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster