Y Cymun – a bilingual Eucharist in the Sacro Speco

UPDATE 23 01 23. A second version with some corrections (mainly formatting) and two bits of additional Welsh text. Many thanks to those who have helped with this.

UPDATE 25 01 23 Several people have asked why I haven’t set Gweddi Ewcharistaidd 1 (GE 1) to music as I did Common Worship Eucharistic Prayer H (EP H). The simple answer is that I tried and failed. GE 1 is about 500 words while EP H is about 350. This makes the repetition of the simple four meausre tone more tiresome in a longer text. Welsh generally has more words to say the same thing than English which also makes for long sections on a reciting note, or breaking up the phrasing more which, with my very little Welsh, is hard for me to do. EP H is written in almost psalmic form with parallelisms in the lines which makes it an easy text to set. GE 1 is more complex. I will come back to it but probably no time soon.

In the cellar of the Deanery at Llandaff I have been able to create the next sacro speco, holy cave, the Capel y Galon Sanctaidd, for prayer and meditation. It is a beautiful space that immediately had an atmosphere of prayer. It is the first place I go to in the morning to sing the Office of Vigils before the day begins. It is the last place I visit before bed, to pray Compline. I call in during the day for the Little Hours. I find it a wonderful space for meditation. Guests and visitors have found it a good place to pray.

I am using as much Welsh as I can in my prayer so that it enters deep within me and, eventually, am able to use as much as possible confidently in church.

We have reintroduced (post-Covid) the daily Eucharist in the Cathedral, but it is good to have a place to celebrate with Jim on my days off and when we have guests.

Here is the rite I have put together for this, as much Welsh as I can manage, and some musical settings of Welsh texts. I am deeply grateful to God for the privilege of this space and to those who visit for the chance to pray together.


Catholics and Evangelicals: Citizen Church or Parish Church –  a non-binary view

At a recent meeting I stated that “I love Citizen Church” (the HTB church plant in the student district of Cardiff). I have only been to Citizen for two Sunday services and met some of the team on another occasion. But it is true. I do love it. The quality of the music, the welcome, being surrounded by hundreds of young people. I would go more often it were not for the full programme of services here at Llandaff Cathedral (four or five on a normal Sunday).

This blog post started as a review of a new book by Tyler Staton, an evangelical Pastor in the US, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools (Hodder and Stoughton 2022).

It is an excellent book. I struggle to find books on prayer to recommend to people who tell me that they find praying hard. Many people come to me telling me that prayer is difficult. That they are in a ‘dark night of the soul’, that they have reached a desert in their prayer. This is a book I will recommend to them. Probably not a starter book for a new Christian, this is a book with a narrative style and North American vocabulary that will put some people off. But it is a book of deep spirituality and richness.

Staton’s take on prayer immediately appeals to me, he recognises the need to establish a rhythm of prayer in the early morning, which he did while still at High School. As much as anyone protests to me that they are not an early morning person I have yet to meet anyone that has established a fruitful, daily, pattern of prayer at any other time of day.

Staton is clear that the need for prayer is a need for solitude. He quotes Henri Nouwen on this which leads in to his quoting for me the greatest Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, Hans Urs von Balthasar. He quotes the Russian tradition of the poustinia. He recognises that we don’t seek outcomes in prayer.

The sections on the Lord’s Prayer are excellent and root this in Jesus’ response to the request from the disciples for him to teach them how to pray. His answer is, to pray.

The section of the book on ‘searching and naming’ sin would be good preparation for anyone making their confession. And the Chapter on the intercession of Christ could have been written by St Augustine in his commentaries on the psalms.

Two areas for me are lacking, unsurprisingly. I have come to the view that the only essentials of Christian prayer are psalmody and eucharist. Staton quotes the psalms frequently, but there is no mention of the Eucharist. There is virtually no mention of the church, it is ecclesially weak. But no book can cover everything. Simply by quoting the spiritual greats that he does he is being ecclesial.

One of the best features of this book is the real stories of people seeking to live Christianity seriously. That is the ‘Praying Like Monks’ of the title. This is a book for those who want their Christian lives to be ‘seven whole days not one in seven’.

Back to Citizen Church. There is much anxiety among those of us who have given our lives to more traditional patterns of ministry. ‘It’s a take over’. I have sought to find ways of understanding how the Spirit is at work in our time by looking at the church across the centuries. One of the ways I understand Citizen church and the evangelical churches (although that is not altogether a helpful label) is as the mendicant orders of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Franciscan movement was much opposed by the established church of the time. They caused fear and anxiety, sometimes forbidden licenses to preach. They were popular and ‘successful’. Our response, as in all ministry needs to be generous. We have rich and deep veins of prayer to share. Traditional patterns of ministry are deeply embedded in the local community, in context. There is a story to be told, not fearfully but joyfully.

Catholic and Evangelical are not mutually opposed. It is trite to talk about a spectrum, but surely true. I love our worship here at Llandaff Cathedral, the utterly superb music, the sublime building. I would love our preaching to be more evangelical. To be Jesus focussed, confident on the converting power of Scripture, and the presence of the Holy Spirit giving profound spiritual experience.

I also love Citizen Church. I love the exploration into contemplative prayer that evangelical friends are making. More evangelicals approach me for spiritual direction now than catholics. “Prayer doesn’t begin with us, it begins with God.” Staton says. How right he is. It has always been the teaching of the church and the spiritual teachers that contemplation is a gift from God. I believe that we have nothing to fear. That God continues to be at work in His world and in His church. Prayer is His gift. And thank God for that.

Book Review: Paul Turner’s Biography of the Eucharistic Lectionaries

In 1969 the Roman Catholic church approved the Sunday and weekday Mass lectionaries that were the result of experimentation that had begun in the 1950s. They were the fruit of the Second Vatican Council and the Consilium that worked from 1964 – 1969 on the lectionaries. In 1979 The Church of England authorised the weekday Mass lectionary which then appeared in the Alternative Service Book of 1980. Later the three year Sunday cycle in the form of the Revised Common Lectionary was adopted as the Sunday Lectionary for Anglicans in England and at different times in much of the world.

Paul Turner has done a great service in producing this aptly named ‘biography’ of these lectionaries by examining the work of Study Group 11, the sub group of the Consilium entrusted with the work of liturgical reform after the Second Vatican Council.

There had been, in fact, only a single sentence in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963) mandating reform of the lectionaries for Mass:

“In liturgical celebrations, a more ample, more varied, and more suitable selection of readings from sacred Scripture should be restored.” (35)

Turner has examined the official record of the work of Sub Group 11 and created a history of their work; it is in that sense that it is a biography. This is not a commentary on the readings and it does not provide devotional material on them.

Several things stand out for me from Turner’s work:

Sub Group 11 was deeply ecumenical in its regard to the lectionaries of other churches; they were very aware of liturgical history and developments in the reformed and Anglican churches.

I am constantly surprised to be reminded of the deeply experimental work that was the fruit of the liturgical movement in the 1950’s. Sub Group 11 was not starting from scratch.

There was a deep regard to work with and from Tradition in the work of the members of the sub-group. The final section of Turner’s book is a Dossier documenting the work that the members of the sub group had published on liturgical lectionaries before being invited to join and form the group.

The emphasis of Vatican 2 to make the liturgy a participation in the paschal mystery is the fundamental drive of those compiling the lectionaries.

A real pastoral concern for what is suitable for parishes comes through at very turn.

Much thought was given to ways in which the lectionary of the previous Missal (largely the same as that used by Anglicans in the Book of Common Prayer) could be preserved in the new lectionary. There was for a time the idea that the older lectionary be one year of a three or four year cycle. In the end although many pericopes were preserved on their original days – notably in Lent – in general the new lectionaries were just new.

To give you a sample of the style of Turner’s work and the content it holds here is a random section from page 256 dealing with the use of the Gospel of Matthew on the weekdays of Ordinary Time (here in the 20th week):

The gospel for Monday of the twentieth week (19:16-22) appeared in none of the drafts. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s (19: 23-30 and 20: 1-16) were in all but the first, which moved several verses (19:27-29) to the eschatalogical weeks. Thursday’s (22:1-14) was in the last two drafts. The first draft assigned some verses 22:2-3,8-14) to an eschatalogical week, but the second and third drafts puts them in semi-continuous order. The first draft called for similar verses in the last of its escahatological weeks (22:1-10). This passage skips several that the drafts proposed (21:28-31 and 21:33-43 in the first; and 20: 17-19; 20:29-34; 21:18-22; and 21:28-32 in the others).

This is only part of a single paragraph. It is, as you can see, detailed stuff.

At first I had thought that I would only recommend this book to liturgical geeks. But I think it has a wider value than that. The introductory section on the Conception of the new lectionaries and the Concluding Observations provide profound insight on the use of Scripture in liturgy. But more than that this detailed analysis of why passages of Scripture ended up being used on certain days provides new insights into the texts themselves and how they are being read christologically, as our participation in the paschal mystery, and ecclesiologically, as our sharing in the life of the church.

I have written before on lectionaries.There is, of course, no such thing as a perfect lectionary. I particularly like the two year cycle of readings for the Office of Readings which I think ideally needs to be used alongside the lectionary at Mass to provide longer passages, and in particular material from the histoical books of the Old Testament which are largely omitted from the Mass lectionaries.

Here, at Llandaff Cathedral, we have recently started using the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary at both Morning Prayer (which is combined with the Eucharist) and Evensong. So those of us who attend both hear the same readings twice. I find it really helpful to have this element of repetition which is an important pedagogical principle. The readings are of a digestible length both for the children in our choir and for those of us who gather in the mornings for whom I hope that the liturgy can be contained to thirty minutes. We also try and preach briefly on the Scripture readings. Because the gospel readings are in a one year cycle and for the seasons of the year outside of Ordinary Time so are the first readings, the principle of repetition is largely met. It also ensures that those who attend only Evensong (choristers, choir parents, clerks, many visitors) hear a portion of the gospel every day. For the clergy I would recommend using the two year cycle of the Office of Readings at a Daytime Office or an Office of Readings before Morning Prayer, more about lectionaries can be found on my blog here. I remain concerned about the three year cycle of the Sunday Mass lectionary and would consider moving to the traditional one year cycle with Old Testament readings (see the 1984 Book of Common Prayer of the Church in Wales, which Bangor Cathedral have already returned to).

I firmly recommend Turner’s book to everyone interested in lectionaries and to those fascinated by the liturgical reforms of the twentieth century. It needs to be read in conjunction with Annibale Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, which is essential reading.

I also recommend Turner’s work to those of us who simply use this lectionary. I will be keeping it in my stall and reading the section on the relevant weeks of the church’s year. Understanding why and how choices were made is deeply informative and enriching of our understanding of the liturgy and its effect on us as participants in the life of the church .

A further review of this book may be found on the Pray Tell Blog here.

Llaswyr Mair – the Rosary in Welsh

Source: Llyfr Gweddi Bach, A Simple Prayer Book, the Catholic Truth Society

The repetition of the Rosary is great for learning Welsh prayers by heart. Here are the headings and prayers. I would like to produce a version with short Scripture texts in Welsh for each mystery and will work on that. Meanwhile please let me know any typos/mistakes, and, indeed, if you find this useful say a prayer for me.

Sermon – Live long and prosper: the Vulcan hand Salute and the Naming of Cats


The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus

1st January 2023

Llandaff Cathedral

Fr Richard Peers SMMS

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,

It isn’t just one of your holiday games.”

Yn enw’r Tad, a’r Mab, a’r Ysbryd Glân. Amen.

A confession:

I have never seen the musical Cats.

It is based, of course on the collection of poems by T.S.Eliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

I love Eliot’s poems and especially Macavity the Mystery Cat:

“Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square—
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!”

But my favourite poem in the collection doesn’t get mentioned in the Lloyd-Webber versions, it is the Naming of Cats

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,

It isn’t just one of your holiday games.”

Today we celebrate the naming of Jesus, more properly the day on which, in accordance with Jewish law he was circumcised and formally given the name Jesus.

Names are significant in each of the readings chosen for today.

In the first reading the people of Israel are on their way from Egypt, they have left slavery behind but not yet reached the promised land. God gives Moses the form of blessing that is to be used by the Jewish people.

It is very beautiful indeed:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you 

and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you 

and give you peace.

Moses is instructed to give this blessing to his brother Aaron, so it is sometimes called the Aaronic blessing. In traditional Judaism the blessing is given in the synagogue by those descended from the temple priesthood and so is called the priestly blessing.

It is said that the Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy was brought up Jewish and he adapted the gesture used by the cohens, the priests to become the vulcan hand salute to accompany the greeting: Live Long and Prosper.

The blessing is the way today’s reading from Numbers tells us that the people of Israel receive the name of the Lord.

In the second reading St Paul, writing to the church in Galatia gives us a simple name for God who we are to call: Abba, Father. And in the Gospel reading we have just heard we are reminded that the name Jesus is given to him by the angel.

For the Hebrew people, and for many ancient peoples, names are hugely significant. Adam’s first act after the creation is to name all living things. 

The name of God is powerful and unpronounceable. Even now Jews when they worship do not pronounce the name of God which is spelled in prayerbooks with the four syllables yod-hey-vav-hey but instead replace it with the Greek word Adonai, Lord.

But we Christians are given a name, we do have a name for God. We have the name that was given by the angel to Mary. 

We have the name Jesus. Jesus who is God really dwelling on earth.

As this new year begins the Vulcan greeting: Live long and prosper, might seem ironic. There is much to be anxious about. There is much for Christians to be anxious about and for the church to be anxious about.

There is much we can do, of course, but the best cure for anxiety is not action but stillness. We are called to be a holy people. Each one of us is called to holiness.

The way of prayer that has stuck with me best over all my adult life is a prayer of the holy name of Jesus. Often just called the Jesus Prayer. It is a form of prayer that has its origins among eastern orthodox Christians. In its simplest form it involves simply repeating two phrases:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God; have mercy on me a sinner.

Like many people who pray this prayer I carry a rope, a series of knots made out of wool. I slip my fingers around each know and pray the prayer. The combination of this simple action and the words that accompany it is powerful. Sometimes when I am most anxious or utterly exhausted just slipping my fingers over the knots is enough and the prayer prays itself.

The trick is to repeat this prayer over and over again, hundreds, thousands of times:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God; have mercy on me a sinner.

Repeat it over and over again. Sometimes, if you can and especially when you start, do it out loud.

But also learn to repeat it in your head; attach one phrase to your in-breath and the other to the out-breath.

Breathing in:         Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.

Breathing out:       Have mercy on me.

If you do this for long enough, often enough the prayer will sink deep into your heart. 

You will find that it becomes a part of you; a part of your breathing. 

You will find yourself breathing this prayer as you go to sleep and as you wake up. It will be in your footsteps on the way to work or as you do the hoovering or cut the grass. 

This prayer has sustained me as I have sat with people as they die; in moments of the greatest stress in my life; when I have felt most alone and in darkest despair.

It is not magic. The name of Jesus is powerful because of our faith in it. It is uttering the name of Jesus in faith that brings us comfort and knowledge of the sacred presence.

When I was brought up I was taught to bow my head at the sacred name. It is a wonderful custom that I would encourage among us. To recognise that when we speak this sacred name we are invoking the presence of the one who saves us, who has saved us.

“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, in a believer’s ear” the old hymn says.

We are the temples of the spirit; we are the places of which God says 

“My name shall be there”. 

“Will God really dwell on earth?” prayed Solomon when he dedicated his Temple.

Does God really dwell in this beautiful cathedral, here along the banks of the Taff?

Yes, if we carry Jesus with us in our hearts and minds; if we become holy, living temples dedicated to the presence of God.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God; have mercy on me a sinner.

At the end of his poem about the naming of cats T S Eliot writes:

“When you notice a cat in profound meditation,

The reason, I tell you, is always the same:

His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation

Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:

His ineffable effable Effanineffable

Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

Dear friends, at this beginning of the year may I offer you the blessing that God gave his people in its original beautiful Hebrew and in English:

יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ

יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ

יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

May this cathedral church be one where God says “My name shall be there.” 

May we be people of the holy Name of Jesus.

May we always be engaged in rapt contemplation of the name of Jesus, of that ineffable, effable, effanineffable, deep and inscrutable singular Name.