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On 22nd June, Bishop John Sherrington addressed parishioners at St Paul’s, Wood Green, as part of the parish’s annual novena. Every year, the parish of St Paul’s, Wood Green, celebrates a novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help from 18th June to 26th June, leading up to the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on 27th June.

This year, to mark the Year of St Joseph, the parish invited 10 preachers to speak about the figure of St Joseph in the Infancy Narratives. Each evening began with the rosary, followed by Mass and concluded with the novena service.

Bishop John focused his reflection on one of the joyful mysteries of the rosary, the presentation of the Lord in the temple. He described how Mary and Joseph 'follow the ritual of the Jewish Law. It is written in the Book of Exodus that every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord and an offering, or a sacrifice of thanksgiving will be made to the Lord.’

Bishop John spoke about the word ‘consecration’:

‘The new-born boy is to be consecrated to the Lord. The word “consecration” is very important. It means to make holy, it means to offer a sacrifice, to hand over someone or something to God in order that God transforms what is offered. We speak of the consecration of the bread and wine in the Mass which become the Body and Blood of Christ.

‘We speak of the consecration of a religious man or a religious woman who hands over his or her life to God. This is usually symbolised by the candidate prostrating themselves on the floor so that their life can be transformed by the grace of God. 
‘Similarly, the priest is consecrated to the service of God and his Holy People at ordination. He prostrates himself on the floor and then his hands are consecrated with Sacred Chrism; a sign that these hands will be holy and used in service of the Lord.

‘Consecration is a very rich word which invites our own reflection on the way in which we consecrate, or make holy, each day to Jesus.’

Bishop John also spoke about Simeon and Anna and the example of their lives:

‘I often associate Simeon and Anna with the elderly of the parish who come faithfully to the church each day, wanting to pray, perhaps lighting a candle for their family and wanting to be present at the Mass. They are today’s Simeon and Anna.

‘I can imagine Anna sitting in the same seat, doing the same rituals as part of her daily prayer, just like some of you who also wait for the coming of the Lord, as we all do. We know that ultimately our life is in his hands. Anna never left the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. When she saw the Christ-Child she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

‘Let us reflect on Simeon who is the other wonderful figure in this story. He comes to the temple prompted by the Holy Spirit so that he could perform the customs of the law. He takes the baby Jesus in his arms and blesses God, recognising that he can now die peacefully because he can believe in the resurrection. His consoling prayer becomes the Nunc Dimittis which is said by priests, religious and many others, at every night prayer: “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.”

‘Jesus is the fulfilment of the promise of God, he is the light of the world who illuminates the darkness and makes a new covenant with those who are baptised; he is the fulfilment for which Israel longed.’

Bishop John highlighted Mary's calling as the Mother of God:

‘Simeon speaks prophetically that Jesus will be persecuted, suffer and die, and believes he will rise from the dead. Jesus is a “sign of the fall and rise of many in Israel”, as some turn to him and follow him as Christian disciples, but others walk away. Simeon prophecies that a sword will pierce Our Lady’s heart as she sees the pain of her son who is rejected, persecuted and carries his cross to Calvary.

‘As the Mother of the Church, she is the Mother for all mothers who suffer for their children; mothers whose sons are in prison, mothers whose children are addicted, whether to alcohol or drugs, mothers who have suffered in this area because of knife crime and many other mothers. We can go to Mary who carries this sword in her heart and bring our pain and suffering to her and ask her to pray for us.’

In his concluding remarks, Bishop John said:

‘The presentation of Jesus in the temple gives us great hope of his promise that he is our Redeemer, that he has made us his adopted children, that we share in the gift of his mercy and will find our home in him.

‘May the example of Simeon and Anna encourage and inspire us.’

Image: Fr Lawrence Lew OP