Archbishop Cushley's Festive Thought for the Day

Archbishop Leo Cushley reflects on caring for others at Christmas and how children can often lead the way in acts of charity. Broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday 21 December 2023.

Feast of St Andrew - Scotland's Patron Saint

Archbishop Leo Cushley will celebrate Mass for the Feast of St Andrew at St Mary's Cathedral at 12.45pm on Thursday 30 November.

Make time in your diary this year to celebrate the feast day of our National Patron at the Cathedral which has the National Shrine of St Andrew and his relics.

It was Andrew who, famously, brought Peter to Jesus – this feast day is your opportunity in a special way – to go to Jesus, through Andrew.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the Vigil of St Andrew on Wednesday 29 November from 7.30pm, which will conclude with sung Evening Prayer of the Vigil at 8.15pm and then Benediction.

Pope appoints Archbishop to Vatican’s Department for Evangelisation

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Leo Cushley to a five-year term as a Member of the First Section of the Dicastery for Evangelisation.

He is joined by John Docherty, former head-teacher of St Ninian's High School in East Renfrewshire, to a five-year term as a Consultor of the same department, which deals with the 'fundamental questions of evangelisation in the world'.

Archbishop Cushley said: “I was surprised and honoured to be asked to become a member of the Dicastery for Evangelisation.

"As this dicastery is an important part of the recent curial reforms of the Holy Father, I look forward learning more and to contributing whatever I can to the fundamental questions of proposing the Good News in today’s world and its many contexts.”

Mr Docherty said: “I am both honoured and deeply humbled to be invited to serve the Church through the Dicastery of Evangelization.

"I hope that my experience of working within Catholic Education will be of value in assisting Pope Francis’ mission to put evangelisation at the centre of our lives. I look forward with great enthusiasm to the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Dicastery for Evangelization is a new department of the Roman Curia formed by the merger of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization in 2022.

The Dicastery is responsible for the fundamental questions of evangelization in the world and according to its Constitution, “is presided over directly by the Roman Pontiff."

GALLERY: Welcoming those received into the Church

At last night's Easter Vigil, Archbishop Leo Cushley baptised those candidates from the RCIA programme, received nine people into full communion with the Church and confirmed 29 people. We welcome them all and keep them in or prayers!

Gallery

All images Benedicta Lin.

 

Easter Vigil Homily: 'The Lamb of God once slain, now lives for ever'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from the Easter Vigil at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Our European Christian heritage is considerable, and one of the very greatest works of its art is to be found in a cathedral in Belgium.

It’s usually referred to as the Ghent Altarpiece, and it is a large and complex 15th century work made up of a number of separate paintings.

It is traditionally attributed to Hubert and Jan van Eyck and was completed in 1432. It is so celebrated that it has been the subject of 13 crimes and seven thefts in its long history.

It was stolen by French Napoleonic troops, then put back; then by the Germans in the First World War, then put back; and again by the Germans while on its way to the Vatican for safekeeping during World War 2, and then put back again.

During its lengthy existence, it has suffered from iconoclasm and even fire damage.

It has been restored many times over the centuries, and because it is considered so precious, if you go looking for it in Ghent Cathedral today, you will only get to see it through very thick, very secure, armoured glass.

The largest panel at the centre of the piece, is the one that interests us here.

It is usually described as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, and it depicts a living lamb standing on an altar, with angels, prophets, women martyrs and men saints gathered into four groups, in a beautiful open green space.

Behind the altar are symbols of the Passion and the Crucifixion, and in front of the altar is a fountain of water.

Although the composition has many beautiful, detailed pictures - of God the Father Almighty, of the Holy Spirit as a dove, of Adam and Eve, of Our Lady and the saints, as well as a beautifully detailed depiction of angels - the only figure who does not appear to be represented is Jesus himself.  He seems at first glance to be absent.

But I wonder if that is the point.  What I mean is coming up, so bear with me for a moment.

Over the last three days, we have been reflecting on Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.

Both on Thursday at the Last Supper, and at our Good Friday celebrations, we saw elements of how John’s Gospel proposes Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”.

We saw how John’s whole Gospel can in fact be seen as an arc that begins with Jesus’ first appearance at the Jordan and finishes at his death on the Cross.

The idea of Jesus as the Lamb of God marks Jesus’s life and continues even after his death.

Jesus is the true Passover lamb, put to death at the same time as the Passover lambs in the Temple, the lamb whose bones aren’t broken on the Cross, but whose destiny perfectly fulfils the Scriptures.

We are in his mystical presence, here and now at Mass, and we see him in the Eucharist, the Lamb of God.

John describes to us how Jesus is God’s own lamb, the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb who has been slain.

We now stand at the empty tomb with those who stood there before us, and like them, we wonder just what has happened.

Jesus is nowhere to be seen.  But the tomb is empty and something dramatic has unfolded, unseen by those first witnesses, and unseen by us today.  Jesus is absent, his body is absent, and we and the witnesses to this are at a loss to explain it.

None of us here has seen the Lord risen from the dead.  Our faith must be based upon those who were there, like Peter and John.

It is based on the love of Mary his mother and of Mary Magdalene.

It is based on the bold declaration of Thomas, “My Lord, and my God”.

It is based on the anxious, affectionate faith of Martha, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living of the living God, the one who was to come into this world”. Our faith is that of the last and greatest prophet, John the Baptist.

And the Baptist was the first to declare, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world”.

My friends, we do not see the Lord as we see each other – but we do see the Lamb of God, in our Eucharistic sacrifice.

We are in his mystical presence, here and now at Mass, and we see him in the Eucharist, the Lamb of God.

We have all these assurances in our faith, and we have the added comfort of seeing in the Eucharist a living, visible link to the living Lord himself.

On Thursday, at the Last Supper, Jesus takes essential elements of the Jewish Passover, recasts them and points to his own death for us on the Cross.

He tells us to share in the Eucharist so as to have a share in his death for us.

He tells us that it is a share in his death for our delivery.

On Friday, he dies on the Cross as the lambs are sacrificed in the Temple.

And, tonight, as we peer into the empty tomb, we see no one, but with the eyes of faith, we see all: we realise that Jesus is risen, the Lamb of God once slain, now lives for ever.

And with the eyes of faith, we see him and know him alive among us, as we gather to offer him anew as the spotless Eucharistic Lamb, whom we can see and believe in, until he appears again among us in glory.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in Ghent Cathedral has no picture of Jesus in this life or the next.  But it does have the icon of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, alive on the altar and pouring out his blood for us.

Worthy is that Lamb who was once slain, and who now lives for ever.  To him, our risen Lord, be glory and honour for ever and ever.  Amen.

All images Benedicta Lin.

Good Friday Homily: 'Called to faith in Christ crucified'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from Friday of the Passion of the Lord at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today we stand again on Mount Calvary, empty and silent, as the dark but glorious victory of the Cross in accomplished.

Last night, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we began our journey by listening to a text from Exodus, that starts with the choice of a lamb that will be put to death in the Jewish Passover.

The lamb is to be drawn from among the people’s flocks of sheep or goats, but the lamb needs to be without blemish.

It is killed ritually at twilight, its flesh is eaten, and its blood is the sign that will deliver the people from death.

God will pass over people of Israel’s houses and they will be spared and given life.

Passover

In John’s account of today’s events, when Jesus is put to death, the Jewish Passover is still to be celebrated, in a few days’ time.

Jesus’s betrayal and trial and death are about to intervene, and he is not going to be able to celebrate the actual Passover with his disciples.  The lambs used at the Jewish Passover, weren’t yet ready.

They hadn’t been sacrificed.  Instead, at the last Supper, Jesus takes important elements of the Passover meal, recasts them using bread and wine, and the Eucharist – the memorial of his death - are born, in anticipation of today’s events and Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.

At the last Supper, the usual Passover lamb is absent, because they’ve not been sacrificed.  That will happen the next afternoon at twilight.

And so, Jesus dies as the very lambs to be used in the Passover are being put to death in the Temple, in preparation for the Passover.  Two important things flow from this.

First, that Jesus is crucified at the same time as the lambs are put to death for the Passover feast. Secondly, that Jesus is revealed as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

‘This is my body’

On the night before he dies, instead of sharing a roasted lamb, he takes the bread, and says, “This is my body, which is for you, do this as a memorial of me”.

He takes the cup after supper – again, an element of the Jewish Passover, but he says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me”.

These words are as close to the Lord’s own words as we can come.

And they show us how Jesus reveals himself the Lamb of God.

He is offering himself as the Lamb whose death will deliver his people from death in Egypt, whose life is given up knowingly, willingly, before the events today actually come to pass.

Today, therefore, on Good Friday, by a very ancient tradition, we listen to John’s account of the Passion, not that of the Synoptics.

John’s account differs in its timing, and is currently considered by scholars to be the one closest to the historic events themselves.

This is for a number of reasons that need not detain us here; suffice to say that in John we see that Jesus’s trial and execution take place in such a way that he dies on the Cross just as the lambs are being sacrificed in the Temple on the day of preparation for the upcoming Passover.

On Thursday, Jesus consciously takes the Old Covenant and updates it.

He recalls the liberation of God’s People from slavery in Egypt, and declares the New Covenant, our liberation from slavery to sin and death, and delivery into a new land, a new paradise for all God’s true assembly, the Church.

And on Friday, just as the lambs were sacrificed in the first Passover before the Hebrews fled Pharaoh, so Jesus indicates his own death as the new and definitive Lamb of God, and points to his own blood as the perfect saving sacrifice that liberates believers from sin and death.

Lamb of God

In fact, John’s whole Gospel can be seen as an arc that begins with Jesus’ first appearance at the Jordan and finishes at his death on the Cross.

Let’s recall how John the Baptist, at the very start of the Gospel, points to Jesus and, on two consecutive days, declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.

This idea continues throughout John’s Gospel, and even after Jesus’ death: Pilate is asked to break the legs of Jesus and the prisoners so that their execution would be completed more quickly.

John recounts how Jesus was already dead and so his legs don’t need broken; but significantly he sees in this another sign.

In Exodus, there is a famous instruction that the lamb used for the Passover must not have its bones broken; and John quotes this injunction at Jesus’ death, saying, “For [this sign] took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not one bone of his will be broken’” (Jn 19:36).  John sees here a further clue to the identity of Jesus.

Jesus becomes God’s lamb, the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

From the very beginning, all the way through his own actions at the last Supper, his Passover, and his awareness of his coming sacrifice at the same time as the lambs of sacrifice, through to John’s own insight of Jesus dying on the Cross along with the sacrificial lambs, Jesus becomes God’s lamb, the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

As we all know, this little phrase of John the Baptist has also made its way into the Mass.  And today, when there is no Mass, the priest still lifts up the host and declares, “Behold the Lamb, behold him who takes away the sin of the world.”

We who have witnessed these events again today are blessed, because we are called not only to witness them, but to share in them through Communion with the Lord, above all in the Eucharist.

We are called to faith in Christ crucified; we are called to a share in Christ’s sacrifice; and we are called to a share in the delivery from sin and death that was won for all of us, by the true Lamb, the Lamb of God, sacrificed on the Cross for us today.

To him be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

All images Benedicta Lin.

Holy Thursday Homily: 'Going to his death for our life'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from last night's Mass of the Lord's Supper at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Tonight, we begin our journey into the three days of the Lord’s own Passover, the Lord’s passage, on our behalf, through death to life.

The great arc that will be described by the 15 scripture readings that we will listen to over the next three days begins with the first reading we just heard this evening from the Book of Exodus.

The text is about the preparations for the very first Passover of the people of Israel before they left Egypt, and the extract we read begins by describing the choice of the animal, the lamb, that will be put to death.

Without blemish

We learn that the lamb may be drawn from among the people’s flocks of sheep or goats, but the lamb needs to be without blemish.

It is to be killed ritually at twilight, its flesh is eaten, and its blood is used to deliver Israel from the death of the firstborn, and ultimately to Israel’s deliverance from Pharaoh himself.  God will “pass over” the houses of the people of Israel, their first born will be spared and they will all be given liberty and life.

Our second reading then builds on this picture, as it takes us to just a few years, a very few years, after Jesus’s death.

What St Paul tells us with the greatest care concerns the Last Supper, a moment that we know is very similar to the Passover just described, but not quite the same thing.

We believe that what Paul describes here goes back to as early as the 30’s AD, and it puts us practically into immediate touch with what Jesus’s very first disciples did in his memory, and from the very earliest days after his death.

These few sentences bring us within a whisker of Jesus himself, and what he said and did on the night before he died, and they are very precious to us.

As I just said, what Jesus does tonight is not quite a Jewish Passover as such.

Preparation

The Passover of the Jews that year is to be celebrated in a few days’ time.  Jesus’s betrayal and trial and death are about to intervene, and so he knows he is not going to be able to celebrate the actual Passover with his disciples.

Instead, he will die as lambs are being put to death in the Temple, in preparation for the Jewish Passover.

And so, this evening Jesus takes important, meaningful elements of the Passover and respectfully and meaningfully, “retasks” them or redirects them.

He does something recognisable to his disciples, but at the same time, he tells them – and us in our turn - that this is not the renewal of the old Covenant; rather it is a new Covenant in his blood.

Instead of sharing a sacrificed lamb with them, he takes the bread, and says instead, “This is my body, which is for you, do this as a memorial of me”.

He takes the cup after supper – again, an element of the Jewish Passover, but says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me”.

These are as close to the Lord’s own words on this night as we can come.  And they show us how Jesus, on this night, becomes the Lamb of God.

He is offering himself as the Lamb whose death will deliver his people from death, whose life is given up knowingly, willingly, before the events that we know so well, just before they come to pass.

Transformed

As to our Gospel passage tonight, it is completely consistent with St Paul, but it adds something unknown and unlooked for to the elements of the old Passover that have been transformed by Jesus’s action this evening.

The passage starts by confirming for us that “it was before the festival of the Passover, and [that] Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father”.  John tells us that they were “at supper” - not at the Passover meal; and he confirms that Judas is getting ready to betray Jesus.

Into all of this context, we then see Jesus kneel down and wash his disciples’ feet.  It is a gesture of friendship, of humility, of self-emptying, an understated indication of the supreme service he is about to render all humanity in his willing self-emptying on the Cross.

Seen as an ensemble, then, our three readings come together perfectly to let us see Jesus as the Lamb of God, who has come into the world to take away our sins.

His Supper, the Last Supper, evokes the Passover and the old Covenant, and yet Jesus transforms it into an everlasting memorial of himself and of his death.

In it, he becomes our Lamb, the one who will be sacrificed on the Cross for our liberation from sin and death.

And he does so with the greatest tenderness, meekly, willingly, and consciously, going to his death for our life, and the life of all his friends.

Chrism Mass Homily: 'What unites us is Christ'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from last night's Chrism Mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A very warm welcome to the Chrism Mass in this, the Year of Grace 2023.

There is an unusual old story from the First World War, that a very significant number of soldiers on both sides of the Western Front were for a time reading the same book and, seen through the eyes of the world today, it appears at first glance to be the most unlikely material.

The book was the autobiography of a French Carmelite who had died a few years before and, at only 24 years old, was a young woman when she died.

St Therese of Lisieux.

We can all see quickly how much the West has changed, for such a thing is practically unimaginable today. The world is no longer very Eurocentric, or very Christian, or very devout; and yet, in those days, the Carmelite writer in question went on to become an immensely popular figure.

Her name, as many of you will have guessed by now, was Marie-Françoise Thérèse Martin, better known now as St Therese of Lisieux.

For my own part, I have a quiet suspicion that the book I’m talking about, the 'autobiography' that we have from her, was not particularly unique: I suspect that many young Carmelites were asked over the ages to write down a spiritual diary, as an exercise, or a penance, or as a guide to greater self-knowledge and personal growth.

What makes Therese’s journal extraordinary is that it has survived, and that the world at large knows about it.

I also suspect that it was originally something that was never meant to be seen or read by anyone outside her convent, let alone published and translated into dozens of languages before a date that would have been around her 40th birthday, had she lived.

Therese was canonized in 1925 and she was named the 33rd Doctor of the Church by Pope St John Paul II in 1997.  Her feast is on 1 October and, as usual, there is a selection of readings in prayers in the Roman rite associated with her day.

She writes with humanity, faith, simplicity and great love for the Lord and for her sisters in religion.

She manages to be both innocent and wise.  She is accessible to many readers and yet she is also poetic and profound.

One passage that my fellow priests and I read that day is from the autobiography we’ve been talking about.  We must presume that it was chosen to capture in a nutshell something central in her person, her outlook, her vocation, her theology, her appeal – the reason she was raised to the altars.

In the passage, she mentions Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and how all the members of the Church are part of one body.

Expanding beautifully on the Apostle’s idea, she illustrates how each of us has a unique role in Christ’s Mystical Body - but how we all need each other too.

We remain individuals, but we give up voluntarily something of ourselves in order to belong to Christ and to each other.

There is a wonderful tension between what we share – the life of grace, our radical equality before God and the offer of redemption in Christ; and what distinguishes us – the complementarity of the services and ministries we give each other: many distinct services, but always bound together in the one love, and in the one Mystical Body of Christ.

We remain individuals, but we give up voluntarily something of ourselves in order to belong to Christ and to each other.

Therese’s insight regarding herself was her desire to be the love in the heart of the Church.  It is a striking, simple, pure idea, and it is placed before us as an encouragement to consider our place in the Church as individuals.

The Church is not a business; it’s not an ethnicity; it’s not exclusive; it’s not of any special place or time.  On the other hand, the Church is open to all; its message of salvation is for everyone of all ages; and all humanity can find a place here, because all of us together form part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

As individuals, each of us has an equal dignity and worth, but as members of the Body of Christ, we give way to each other in charity.  As individuals, each of us is made in God’s image and likeness, but as members of Body of Christ, it is in union with each other in Christ that we are saved.

One example of this in our time is our Holy Father Pope Francis’s intentions for the upcoming Synod, which he tells us principally is about listening to each other: learning, or learning again, to give each other the respect due to each and every one in charity, that is, in communion with Christ and with each other.

And today, when our thoughts turn to the blessing of the oils, and our prayers turn to the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the whole People of God, we are reminded of this tension, of the balance between the component parts of the Mystical Body of Christ, and the children of God who make it up.

Let’s all aspire to a greater love of Christ and of each other...one that is worthy of our Saviour who unites us all in His own priesthood on the Cross.

To paraphrase St Paul, some are called to one kind of service, and some are called to another.  But what unites us is Christ and our service to each other, and our service to the one Lord, who is over all, through all and within all.

There is one love that binds us all together.

As St Therese puts it, “I saw and realised that […] love is everything, [and] that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting”.

My dear friends, as we continue on our pilgrim way in this life, and as we reflect tonight on the importance of the common priesthood and of the priesthood of particular service to God’s people, let’s all aspire to a greater love of Christ and of each other, one that is real, unalloyed, nourishing, unifying, and one that is worthy of our Saviour who unites us all in His own priesthood on the Cross. Amen

Need to Know: Palm Sunday

Archbishop Leo Cushley hosts a talk on Palm Sunday on Monday 27 March at 7:30pm. It is for those who want to better understand the background to the liturgy of the day and prepare for it. Register for this Zoom talk at bit.ly/palmsundaytalk

WATCH: Archbishop Cushley's tribute to Benedict XVI

Archbishop Leo Cushley reflects on his fond memories of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in this Shalom World video. Watch more tributes on the Shalom World YouTube channel in its 'Salt of the Earth' special series here.