Homilies by Fr Timothy Curtis, on the theme of the great Gift of salvation, the way in which the Christian life is an exchange of a Gift between God and His people, backwards and forwards, a dialogue of giving and receiving the Gift of His only begotten Son,
Fr Timothy's homilies are delivered extempore, without script or notes. They may, therefore, contain small errors in fact or memory. They are also spoken directly to a small congregation, rather than the world as a whole. They are offered in this spirit.
Just before we take communion, before we receive Christ God, the Gift, let us consider who we are as gifts too, and make sure we are willing to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him, and become extraordinarily and fully human, beyond our wildest imagination.
The ox is not prevented from eating some of the wheat that it is grinding, and so the ministers of the church need to be paid too. Saint Anne's clergy are all volunteers and our income as a parish has fallen during Covid19 lockdown. Please consider making an online donation.
Going back slightly, we consider the prayers from St John and St Basil that are said just before the Lord's Prayer, and how they affirm that God makes us worthy, how He looks on us and deems us worthy. He answers our prayers, He is a God of Love not wrath.
When people refuse to bend a knee before anyone except the Queen or President, we remember in the Lord's Prayer that the Kingdom of God is present on earth, not just in heaven. If we don't bow before anyone, we may refuse to encounter Christ
Returning to the Liturgy Slowly series, we start again with a wider thought about the idea of self emptying, kenosis, as a more profound gift-giving. Giving of ourselves requires us to empty ourselves of our ego and hangups to truly accept those mentioned in the Beatitudes
After mentioning the Holy Spirit only 25 times, the Liturgy now invokes the presence of the Holy Spirit at the epiclesis. St Gregory Palamas' theology of the energies of God help us to understand the dynamic action of the silent and still Godhead.
Words change their meanings, so we have to be careful about what we do when we approach icons in our prayer life, giving the pinnacle of everything in our lives to God alone, and not mistakenly to icons.
In this episode, on Forgiveness Sunday, we reach the elevation of the Gifts, offering Chris God to God the Father, His essence to His essence, not offering sweatmeats to placate an angry deity. When we ask forgiveness of each other, we are not saying sorry for individual behaviour. We have the opportunity to heal ancestral and cultural hatreds and oppression that we unknowingly repeat in our actions, attitudes and behaviours. Forgiveness Sunday isn't just about saying sorry to each other, but healing our whole society.
In this episode on the Sunday of the Last Judgement before Lent starts, we consider the nature of the bread that Christ blesses, and that we refer to in the Lord's prayer. It is the same essential bread that makes up the Body of Christ that is at once the body of Jesus, us as church and His presence in the world.
In this episode, on the Feast of the Prodigal Son, we look at the Dispensation, explained in detail by St Basil's liturgy, which is the centuries long loving response of the loving Father to us, the prodigal children who have squandered our inheritance as His children
In this episode, we focus on seraphim and cherubim, and other bodiless powers mentioned in the liturgy. It's hard to make sense of them without becoming superstitious. With the aid of Storm Ciara, Fr Timothy concentrates on the powers or characteristics of our relationship with God that they represent.
On the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also coinciding with the Sunday of Zachaeus, we find that we can only encounter Christ when we are willing to say 'Blessed is he who comes in His name', in other words, when we see Christ in all those, like Zachaeus, who are despised by polite society.
In this episode, St John's liturgy provides us with his first full theological statement, not describing God's positive attributes, but apophatic theology is more familiar to Orthodoxy, describing that which God is not. We give thanks to God, however, that He emptied Himself of everything that He is not, to become Christ.
We have finally arrived at the anaphora, at the Baptism of Christ by John the Forerunner. Having seen the procession of Christ as the Gift in the Great Entrance, we become the Sacrifice of Praise, offering ourselves in Thanksgiving for Christ baptising His creation, turning back sin and restoring paradise. Let us, in awe and reverence, stand and attend to this moment.
As the Magi deal with Herod after their long journey, we consider St Paul's time in the desert after his encounter with God. We have encountered God incarnate, we mustn't now just brush that away, we should respond with our own time in contemplation.
Taking a long view on the Gift of His incarnation in the flesh, God has a plan, but not what we might think, and not a plan we frustrate by our sinfulness. God has worked through the centuries, through the prophets who didn't receive the promise, to prepare for His Nativity.
In this episode, on the Feast of the Conception of the Theotokos by our Patroness Anna, Father considers the placing of the litany of completion at the placing of the Gifts on the Holy Table, and the importance of us understanding that the Theotokos is not conceived immaculately, but lived spotlessly.
In this final episode on the Great Entrance, Fr Timothy notes the shift from the great and glorious procession of Christ in glory, accompanied by the heavenly host, carried aloft by the deacons, to being lifted down from the cross and carried by the noble Joseph and laid on the Holy Table as into the Tomb
In this second episode in the Great Entrance, we consider the priest's normally silent prayer 'No one is worthy' in the context of the woman who is healed of her 18 year infirmity and the Entrance of Mary into the Temple. We are made worthy by God, not because we are worthy, but because He makes us worthy. We become temples of the Living God, like Mary, entering the temple, became The Temple of the Living God become Flesh.
In this episode, we see the simple task of carrying the bread and wine as a heavenly procession of Chris the King, being borne aloft by cherubim and seraphim. Our simple gifts become the Gift. Let us be careful that we don't tear down the barns that Christ has built for us in His blessings to be replaced by the cupboards of our own making
In this episode we pause before moving on to the Cherubic hymn to remind ourselves of the purpose of liturgy and ritual, to tell us the story, to re-enact the history of the people of God over the centuries, across cultures. We also remind ourselves that Christianity, faith itself, is not a spiritual act but a public physical act of compassion.
In this final episode of the Liturgy of the Catechumens, before we move on to the Liturgy of the Faithful, Fr Timothy contemplates God freeing us from our chains, from our sinfulness, that we may be made worthy of the heavenly kingdom. He also notes again the importance of the antimens over which these prayers are made, the sign of the shepherds who guard our flocks. In times of turmoil, these shepherds have to gather us and lead us to new pastures
In this episode, which didn't end as planned, Father Timothy considers the first of the 'wisdom' prayers, which is actually a recollection of the 'blood sacrifice prayers of the old testament, but now placed in the context of the bloodless sacrifice of Christ. He connects it to the careful placing of the seed of the Spirit in every human, placing the burden on us all of tilling the soil of faith.
In this special episode, Fr Timothy talks to Professor Roy Robson, a church historian from Penn State University in America, who came to see the extraordinary Reitlinger frescos in our parish church. We were both quite excited about them!
After the celebrant has declared that the Kingdom of God is to be blessed, the congregation, led by the deacon, sing the first great Litany. Fr Timothy considers the point of praying for peace, and describes what is being prayed for during the first Litany
In this second homily on the Divine Liturgy, Father Timothy considers the opening declaration, 'Blessed is the Kingdom', and how the saints act as sinews the Church, the Body of Christ, giving dynamic life to the skeleton bones of Bible, liturgy and hierarchy within the church, and giving living structure to our contemporary lives. We today are the flesh, but without bones and sinew, we are nothing. Without us, the flesh, the bones and sinews are also nothing. The Kingdom is Personal, the bones, sinews of the saints and us as the flesh, make the 2,000 years of church history alive to us today.
In this episode, Fr Timothy marks the end of the Pentecost period, when we return to, and mark the rest of our lives according to, 'ordinary time'. But there is nothing ordinary about time when we have two words to use - chronos and kairos. We start the Divine Liturgy with the deacon informing the celebrant 'now is the perfect time to act, time to give the blessing'.
A parishioner noted after the homily that " In Galatians 4, 4 : “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,” In the Greek it is written“ ὅτε δὲ ἦλθε τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου, ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ, γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον,” “τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου” is translated (KJV) as the “the fulness of the time”. In this sense one can say that the fullness of time (the fullness of chronos) is the "Kairos": JP
In this homily, Fr Timothy explores the nature and role of the Holy Spirit, and the incarnation of God as the church. We become the Body of Christ, His eyes and ears, hands and feet. Father Timothy also briefly touches on the role of the Holy Spirit outside the church, the Giver of Life who is 'everywhere present and fills all things'.
Fr Timothy considers the two readings, Gospel and Acts of the Apostles, that are read on the Sunday of the Paralysed man. They point clearly, in this Paschal season leading up to the Ascension of Christ, that at it's core the church's ministry is that of healing, not moralism. The judgement of the church should be like that of a physician, to identify the spiritual sores and paralysis and to heal, not to judge like in a legal court.
In this homily, Fr Timothy considers the difference between 'resucitation' and resurrection. He contrasts Christ's raising of the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus who was definitely dead for 4 days, and His own Resurrection to eternal life. This helps us to understand a little of what is impossible to know; what it's like to exist beyond space and time, in the eternal presence of the glory of God.
Here is an extra gem for you: the choir of St Anne's singing the ancient hymn Let all mortal flesh keep silence (Greek: Σιγησάτω πᾶσα σάρξ βροτεία), also known as Let all mortal flesh keep silent, based on words from Habakkuk 2:20, "Let all the earth keep silence before him" (Hebrew: הַ֥ס מִפָּנָ֖יו כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ has mippanaw kol ha-erets). The original was composed in Greek as a Cherubic Hymn for the Offertory of the Divine Liturgy of St James.On Great and Holy Saturday morning, the 'little resurrection' is celebrated with a Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St Basil, and this hymn is the appointed cherubic hymn. Here it is sung according to the Gerard Moultrie translation to the tune of "Picardy", a French medieval folk melody.
In this homily, Fr Timothy considers the importance to silence and stillness (hesychia) to the Orthodox Christian tradition, despite all the words, movement, sounds and smells, the Christian encounters God's divine energies through the silence and stillness that is at the heart of the Divine Liturgy
Fr Timothy, for a moment forgetting the theme of Gift, seeks to illustrate the theology of the Divine Energies of God, expressed more effectively by St Gregory Palamas, and the implications for our understanding of the difference between Mary as Birthgiver of Christ-God (begotten before all ages), rather than the Mother of God
On the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee just before Lent, Fr Timothy considers pride and it's effects, driving the need to seek security in anything other than the Person of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ.
In this additional talk after the liturgy, Father Timothy muses on the nature of marriage and monastic life, both as means of holiness, and the importance of coming to both as whole and free persons in Christ.
The progress through the liturgy is paused for the Sunday of Forgiveness as the Orthodox Christian enters liturgically into Lent. Fr Timothy considers the gift of offering and receiving forgiveness, and its role in healing the whole person.
In this episode, Fr Timothy considers the prayers for all the saints who have shared their talents to build the Body of Christ through the centuries; 'forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith'. He considers the contemporary demands for 'leadership' within the Church, rather than shepherding.
At the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Fr Timothy reflects on becoming united to the Church, personally and as churches, by thinking about the prayer in the Liturgy of St Basil "And unite us all to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and the Cup in the communion of the one Holy Spirit. Grant that none of us may partake of the holy Body and Blood of Your Christ to judgment or condemnation; but, that we may find mercy and grace with all the saints who through the ages have pleased You: forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith."