Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It was a great joy when on 5th July we were able to meet together again in church to celebrate Mass. I was delighted that so many of you were able to come, and have continued to come week by week since then. There have been only slightly fewer people in church than on a normal pre-Covid19 Sunday and our Tuesday evening and Thursday morning Masses have nearly returned to former levels. I appreciate that for various reasons some of you are not yet able to join us but you will be greatly welcomed when you feel it is safe to come. Slowly things are beginning to take a familiar shape. Having started with a Low Mass, we moved on to Solemn Mass with incense and recorded hymns; and by the time this magazine comes out we will have our choir singing the hymns and responses. Sadly, the congregation is not allowed to sing just yet, but I hope no one could object if you quietly hum the tune behind your masks. And, as a further step towards how things used to be, Teddy Bear church is scheduled to start again on the second Sunday of September.
I’m looking forward to the day when my letter needs make no mention of Covid19 or words such as ‘normality’. Also, when the newspapers stop running front page stories about possible future lockdowns and A level results. So by way of a welcome change I was interested to read recently a news item about the health benefits of honey in treating symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. A report by a group of Oxford medics has found that it is more beneficial than antibiotics or expensive cough mixtures in treating coughs, sore throats and congestion. Many of you I’m sure will say you’ve known that for years! The report in the British Medical Journal was published in the week in which we marked the feast day of St Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux and Doctor of the Church. St Bernard was an outstanding preacher renowned for the eloquence and poetic nature of his sermons and in a book called The Gallic Bee published in 1508 by Theophilus Reynauld St Bernard was described as the Mellifluous Doctor, the honey sweet doctor, a name that has remained with him. Amongst other patronages, he is the patron saint of beekeepers and the beehive is one of his emblems. In one of his sermons he said that Jesus is honey on the lips so I’m sure he was well aware of the potency of honey.
We can see how honey was greatly valued in biblical times from some of the references to it in the bible. God promised to deliver the Israelites from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. John the Baptist survived in the wilderness on a diet of locusts and wild honey. Jonathan tasted honey from the honeycomb and – though it almost cost him his life because of a curse by his father Saul on those who eat it – we are told that eating it caused his eyes to brighten. Psalm 119 sees honey as a useful comparator for the words of the Lord (‘sweeter than honey to my mouth’). Isaiah prophesies that ‘the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good’. But among the many verses in the bible which mention honey perhaps the book of Proverbs tells us most about it. It tells us that ‘pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body’ and later on ‘my child eat honey for it is good and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste’, whilst giving an appropriate warning to us: ‘if you have found honey eat only enough for you or else having too much you will vomit it’. This seems like good medical advice to me.