FATHER RICHARD’S LETTER
The first parish in which I served was the parish of Roath in Cardiff, with special responsibility for St. Anne’s Church and district. One of the churches in the benefice asked me to say a mid-week Mass as their usual priest was away. It is a great joy and privilege to ‘preside’ at the altar, and I dutifully trotted off to St. Edward’s to help out.
Something very unusual happened in the church during the consecration prayer (where the bread and wine is consecrated/made holy. I prayed the words of Christ over the chalice (‘this is my blood which is shed for you’) elevated the chalice and genuflected (sank down on one knee, rose, and looked down on the chalice on the altar. I love to keep a few seconds quiet after the words of consecration to ponder on the mystery of Christ hidden and revealed in humble wine.
As I gazed down into the chalice, I saw something which took my breath away. On the surface of the wine I saw the most beautiful angel with myriad coloured wings gently beating. In moments of surprise/shock it’s amazing how many thoughts shoot through one’s mind within a split second. I remember thinking God doesn’t go in for party tricks, I must be hallucinating. I looked again and there WAS an angel hovering on the surface of the wine.
Though I was shocked and moved by this strange experience, I continued the Mass as usual, giving communion, and finally giving the blessing and dismissal.
As I left the altar, I remember gazing up at the brightly coloured East Window above the altar, and was surprised to see an angel depicted there, just like the one I had seen dancing in the chalice. Then ‘the penny dropped’ and I realised that the ‘angel’ I had seen was a reflection from the great window.
‘No miracle then’, I thought as I processed back to the sacristy. As I said the thanksgiving prayers at the vestry desk, I reflected on what had happened. ‘It is a miracle really – the God given artistry of the person who had drawn the angel, the skill of the person who had translated it into brightly coloured glass’. The miracle too, of God-given breath in one’s lungs – the ‘movement’ of the angel’s wings, caused by breathing on the chalice as I said the sacred words, and lastly of course, the miracle of sight by which we see the evidence of God in His glorious creation.
The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Michael and all Angels every year on the 29th September. I leave you with a quote from that wonderful artist, Edward Burne-Jones, who designed and executed such beautiful angels in stained glass.
‘The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels I shall paint.
Their wings are my protest in favour of the immortality of the soul’.