I want to hold your hand – Thursday, 2nd Week in Advent – Isaiah 41:13-20

Today we read of mercy in the midst of madness. For seventy years the people of Israel were. in exile. Chapter 41 offers hope that now seems to take on concrete form. In 41:2 we read, “who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service? “This is certainly a reference to Cyrus the Great of Persia, though he is not named until (44:28). The Lord anointed Cyrus the Great, king of Persia who ruled from 550 – 530 B.C., to accomplish His righteous will by conquering Babylon (in 539 B.C.), and allowing some of the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. 

Scattered through the text of Chapter 41 is the reassurance of God, seen in the form of assurance, protection and providence.

Assurance

Assurance is experienced in the words  “do not fear” which appears in verse 10, 13 and 14. On reading the text of verse 14 one is left a bit perplexed. The verse reads, “ do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect (men of) Israel. I will help you says the Lord.” While Israel and Jacob certainly needed to be called out for the years of disobedience and rebellion against God, did they really need insult to injury?

While we may think that the analogies could have been a bit more sensitive we need to keep in mind what God wants to communicate and sometimes the most unexpected examples serve to fully draw out a point being made. A worm is an insect that has no spine and in reality is at the bottom of the food chain. Yet it is this creature that could be so easily crushed in a fraction, that will be taken and made into a threshing sledge; new and sharp. It will be able to crush the mountains and grind the hills into chaff. God’s assurance is for us too; we have ‘mountains’ in our lives, those insurmountable obstacles that challenge us. At times we feel like we are at the bottom of the food chain, ready to be devoured by forces around us. God assures us this advent that we will not be crushed, that no obstacle is too great for God and that shows us He is with us.

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THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: First Facts

 In 1770, Bishop Dominic of St. Clare opened the ‘Seminary’ for the first time at the Bishop’s Residence attached to the Fort Chapel in Medows Street. From then on the Bombay Seminary has measured a myriad of ‘firsts’ memories. As we draw towards the end of the #StoreysOfStories, here are some of the significant ‘First Facts’ of the Bombay Seminary –

The Ordination book of the Bombay Vicariate dates its first ordinations in 1775 when Bishop Charles of St. Conrad raised four students to the clerical state.

Arguably, the first student from Bombay sent to Rome for further studies was Fr. Antonio Pinto da Gloria.

In 1789, the reversion of Bombay to the jurisdiction of Goa and the expulsion of the Carmelites from Bombay by the British, put an end to the first experiment of an independent Seminary.

The first Rector of the Parel Seminary was Fr. Joseph Valls (1936 – 1942). The first Rector of the Goregaon Seminary was Fr. D. Fernando S. J.  (1956 – 1966). Msgr. Simon Pimenta (later Cardinal) was the first Diocesan Rector of the Bombay Seminary (1971 – 1973).

In June 1938 courses in Philosophy were first introduced in the Bombay Seminary while in June 1943 courses in Theology were first introduced at the Bombay Seminary

The earliest record of a secular priest teaching in a visiting capacity is that of Msgr Vivian Dyer who conducted a course in Pedagogy from 1941 to 1947 at the Parel Seminary. The first resident diocesan priest was Fr. Jean Mercier who came to the Seminary from Belgium in 1960 and taught Philosophy at the Bombay Seminary.

On December 21, 1946, at the Church of St. Peter’s Bandra, Valerian Gracias, the then newly consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay conferred the Sacred Priesthood on Fathers Andrew Dias, Jonathan Dias, Rudolph D’Souza, and Blaise Nazareth. Factually this was the first batch of seminarians to complete all their ecclesiastical studies in the Diocesan Seminary of Bombay.

On August 22, 1957, the Cardinal being away, Auxiliary Bishop Longinus Pereira cut the first sod at Goregaon site in a simple yet significant ceremony

The first Mass at the Goregaon Seminary was celebrated on April 14, 1959 by Valerian Cardinal Gracias. He chose to celebrate Mass on his feast day in one of the future classrooms of the under-construction Seminary building. A large number of faithful including priests, seminarians, school children, nuns, laypeople joined in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

The Rector celebrated Mass facing the congregation for the first time in the Seminary Chapel on September 29, 1964. Also in 1964 concelebrated Mass was held for the first time in the Seminary during the International Theology Seminar on ‘Christian Revelation and non-Christian Religions’ (November 25 – 27).

It is important to note the names of the first group of seminarians ordained in the Community Chapel at Goregoan, The Ordination Ceremony was held on December 12, 1960. Valerian Cardinal Gracias conferred the Sacred Priesthood on Fathers Percival J. Fernandez (now Bishop Emeritus), Noel C. Britto, Bento Cardozo, Casimiro D’Mello, Anthony V. Dsouza, Brian E. Fernandes, Sydney C. Fernandes, German Lemos, Dominic F. Pereira, and Anthony Vaz.

The first evening Ordination service was held in 1964 during the 38th International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay

Marathi has been taught at the Seminary since 1942. The first Marathi Annual play was produced by the seminarians in November 1966. The celebration of Mass in Marathi for the whole student community became a regular feature in the Seminary since 1967.

The Moderator Group System was formally set up for the first time in the academic year 1970 – 1971. From June 1970 a Regency Year was officially introduced into the seminary programme. Since 1968, the Bombay Seminary has thrown open its doors to non-Mumbai students.

On November 26, 1960 the first group of nuns under Sr. Beatrice Chaves moved from Orlem, Malad to the Seminary and for the first months took up residence in the green room at the back of the seminary auditorium. On March 7, 1961 they formally moved into their new house, St. Pius X Convent, the day it was blessed and inaugurated.

The first Pope to visit the Bombay Seminary was Pope Paul VI (now saint) on December 5, 1964 on the occasion of his visit to Bombay during the celebration of the 38th International Eucharistic Congress.

The first Pope to reside at the Bombay Seminary was Pope John Paul II (now saint) on February 9 – 10, 1986.

Did You Know?

During his stay in the Seminary Pope John Paul II planted a sapling on the lawn in front of the building. We have taken his gesture to symbolize the Church’s hope in the future of this institution. As the sapling grows before everyone’s eyes it reminds the Seminary that it still has many miles to go, many promises to keep. As one of its well-wishers put it: Parel was the beginning; Goregaon was the end of the beginning; the best is yet to come! (Ratus, 1986)

Please feel free to share this story with others and your story of the Seminary with us! You will get regular updates at this blog site on this exhibition.

© – Archdiocesan Heritage Museum   

 

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As we slip into December, the cold winter wind begins to rattle everything that stood silent in our garden all through the long hot summer. The quiet of the morning kitchen is what I love to wake up to. 

I slowly potter around wiping down kitchen platforms and rinsing a few bits and bowls from the previous night. I grind some fresh coffee beans, put on the kettle, make my morning cuppa, and as I take that first sip of coffee everything about the weather that winter brings seems to make that cup of coffee somehow richer, darker, warmer, both in aroma and flavour. Winter is a time when the familiar fragrances seem to quicken my heartbeat, send my tummy into overdrive, craving all things necessary, unnecessary, and comforting.

As I get hungrier through the day during this season I reach out for rich soups, roasted corn, hot chocolate. Dream of Christmas goodies, homely stews, spiced teas, dark coffees, and gooey cheese. I eat more ghee, butter, and, sesame, pumpkin, and add spices to my food like nutmeg, chili, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper.

 Like winter brings with her warmth and richness to the season, pepper brings in both depth and spice in most of the food we cook all through the year. Walk into any kitchen, and pepper is what you are sure to find in some quantity, in homes, restaurants, and cafes around the world. It is after all the king of spices, the third most used ingredient, and the only spice present in most recipes the world over.

Used in both savoury and sweet. Pepper is often taken for granted much like salt or water but it was once used as money to pay taxes, rent, and to pay off debts. It is the oldest, most traded, and longest cultivated spice. Stuffed in the noses of Pharos, carried by Buddhist monks as medicine, and used to pay off ransoms, pepper has always been regarded as a spice of great value.

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I Believe I Can Fly – Wednesday, 2nd week in Advent  – Isaiah 40:25-31

The book of Isaiah is centred on the Babylonian exile, which began in 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and enslaved the Jewish people. The exile ended in 539 B.C. when Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild their temple. 

Scholars are divided with regard to the authorship of this book. Some believe that one man wrote the entire book, part of which foretells events to take place long after his death. Others believe that one author wrote chapters 1-39, a second author or group of authors wrote chapters 40-55, and a third author or group wrote chapters 56-66.

But everyone agrees that chapter 40 begins a new emphasis. While chapters 1-39 warned of God’s judgment if the people place their trust in secular rulers rather than in God. Chapters 40-55 lift up the promise of redemption for a people who are experiencing the judgment about which the prophet warned in the earlier chapters. 

The text  of today is a well-known text from the book of Isaiah. It is loved because it strikes a familiar chord with so many weary people who at times need encouragement. The opening lines of Isaiah 40 announce what was surely impossible to believe. After living as slaves in Babylon for seventy years, their hearts were filled with fear, doubt and concern; their nation was destroyed, Jerusalem was a pile of rubble, the temple was gone. They were beaten, felt alone and abandoned by God and they were hopeless.

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Salvation is a journey – Monday, 2nd Week in Advent – Isaiah 35:1-10

Amid rumours of war and desolation, Isaiah 35 surprises us. A voice speaks without addressing anyone by name, without the particularity of time. Many scripture scholars wonder why this text finds itself in this section of the book of Isaiah when it almost sounds like a cut copy and paste from the second section.

Today’s reading is in sharp contrast to the destruction of Edom described one chapter earlier. In chapter 34 we find “Yahweh enraged against all the nations” (34:2), his sword is filled with blood and will effect “a great slaughter in the land of Edom” (34:6) and “a day of vengeance” (34:8). Chapter 35 stands in stark contrast. The prophet declares the joy of an earth wrung dry.  

In the 6th century BCE, God promised a new, holy path for Israel that would lead them out of bondage in Babylon to a new future for Judah. Isaiah 35 is a powerful poetic word of comfort for the mourning Judahite exiles, to a people who have been punished, who lost their temple, land, and sovereignty. Isaiah does not prophesize a quick end to Israel’s suffering. Most of us have come to the realization that God does not remove all of our problems the moment we enter into God’s presence. Yet God is always working for our good, our renewal, and yes, even our joy.  God is always looking out for us, acting on our behalf and making a way in the dry deserts of life. 

Isaiah seeks to assure Israel that God is present in their suffering; God has not deserted them. When our world is crashing in around us, everything is out of control and we fear for our survival, we sometimes doubt God’s presence. This passage speaks the same message to us as it did to the people of Israel—God has not deserted us. God is present in the middle of our situations and suffering.

Israel has been in exile for decades, and their bondage has sapped their spirit and strength. The first step to recovery of physical strength is recovery of spirit. Anticipating each argument for  not making the long and arduous journey home (verses 3&4) the prophet calls people to begin that recovery with the help of God. It lays the foundation for them to hope. A person with no hope can be expected to have weak hands and feeble knees, but when hope is restored, they will find reservoirs of untapped strength—both spiritual and physical strength. Hence words of encouragement are given, “Strengthen the weak hands, make firm the feeble knees.”

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