The Society of St Margaret
The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham
A recognised community within the Church of England
SSM DEDICATION FESTIVAL Sermon by Mgr Philip Moger
12th May 2022
The story’s often told of the American tourist seeking directions to Dublin:
Well, sir, if I were you, says his interlocutor, I wouldn’t start from here If you were introducing a newcomer to Christianity, you probably wouldn’t point them to the Book of revelation, the Apocalypse, as the first book of the Bible to read! To some it’s confusing, surreal; to others fascinating because of its many colourful and sometimes grotesque images! Others, fearful about the future, view it as a kind of timeline which will help them prepare for the events of the end of the world. But, like all scripture, we are encouraged to hear in it God’s voice, what the spirit is saying to the Churches now, here today.
We’re celebrating the Vespers of the Dedication of a Church, because this is the Dedication Festival. When we do so, we rightly think about buildings wherein God is worshipped, and the people who worship in them. But our gaze is directed to the new Jerusalem, to where God’s family is on pilgrimage:
(growing) ever more and more as the Lord’s own Body, till she reaches her fullness in the vision of peace, the heavenly city of Jerusalem
as the Roman Missal puts it. Our life being a pilgrimage to the Father is by no means an alien concept here in Walsingham!
I know, dear Sisters, that your coming here in 1947 was to be active members of the shrine staff, to welcome pilgrims and be involved in the sacristy, educational outreach and, no doubt, many other tasks! Above all, of course, your being was to be at least as important as your doing; who you are, as individuals, yes, but as a corporate body, too, witnessing to the vision of your founder, John Mason Neale, and above all to the evangelical counsels, the gospel. Your founder’s motto,
What is possible may be done; what is impossible must be done,”
must have brought a wry smile to many of your forbears in the early years of the Society, as they struggled against the intolerance they encountered, but also in every generation seeking to do God’s will, not knowing what the future holds. So many things God gets involved with seem to rely on slender means, on slim pickings, on the cooperation of one person, and a – humanly speaking – insignificant one at that. It’s amazing that anything is achieved! But isn’t that the drama of the Incarnation? Isn’t it the story of Lourdes? Isn’t it the message of Walsingham?
Yet, there must surely be times for each of us when we echo the prophet’s cry How long, O Lord and we long deeply for the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God . Sometimes, it can’t come quickly enough! Of course, this vision isn’t only other-worldly but this worldly. It reminds us of the Covenant of peace in Ezekiel:
my dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God and they shall be my people (37:26-27).
The book of Revelation, written – sometimes using coded language for safety – to strengthen weary hands, to comfort the disturbed and persecuted to assure them that the defeat of the powers of evil is assured. The life of grace which sustained them, sustains us as we wait for God’s glory to be revealed.
O God, who from living stones Prepare an eternal dwelling for your majesty, Increase in your Church the grace you have bestowed So that by unceasing growth Your faithful people may build up the heavenly Jerusalem. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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