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Diocese

‘Diocese’ refers to the geographical territory in which a bishop exercises oversight. The Church in Wales is divided into six dioceses each with its own cathedral in which is housed the cathedra (the bishop’s ‘chair’ or ‘throne’).

Holy Communion

At Holy Communion blessed bread and wine is shared, by which we receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The congregation gives thanks for Jesus’ life, his death and resurrection and his continuing presence. See also Eucharist.

Home Pobl Dewi A contradiction in terms

A contradiction in terms

Canon Patrick Thomas considers the amazing paradox that is the Incarnation

Throughout over forty years of ministry in the Diocese of St Davids, the climax of my spiritual experience each year was the moment during the Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve when we re-lived the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus. As eternity (that is the all-encompassing God who is Alpha and Omega at the same time) entered our one-thing-after-another time, the church was transformed into a stable and we, with the angels, became witnesses to the wonder that God has come into our midst as one of us for our sake, so great is His love for each one of us. The same great truth was evident on the mountain top in the ancient remote church of Llanfihangel Rhos–y-corn and in Christ Church opposite the Quins Rugby Club in the centre of Carmarthen.

This awareness of the nature of the miracle is not new of course. The deep mystery has been a central part of the web of our faith since the beginning. The amazing paradox: the greatest ever prepared to become the least of all: ‘God in the world as a tiny child’ to quote Eirian Davies, one of Carmarthenshire’s poets.

Back in the thirteenth century Brother Madog ap Gwallter sang of the baby in the manger as "a great little giant, a strong mighty weak one… a wealthy poor one, and our Father and our Brother". Following the Protestant Revival, in his most famous carol, Rhys Pritchard , Vicar of Llandovery and Chancellor of St Davids Cathedral, referred to the same amazing truth:

Let’s go to Bethlehem to see

Mary with God’s Son on her lap;

Mary holding in her hands

The Son who keeps the world from falling!

Let’s go to see death’s conqueror

Swaddled tightly in nappies,

And the Son who tears up Satan’s kingdom,

In the crib, unable to crawl.

Over the centuries the nation’s carollers and musicians ensured that the message was not forgotten. My mind goes back to a carol service long ago in Llanfhangel Rhos-y-corn, on a mountain top between Brechfa and Llanllwni. It was a cold day and the church had no heating, but as a result the congregation sang with gusto in order to keep warm. The late Mr Tim Lewis, Lanfryn (late of Maesygroes) was at the organ: a shopkeeper and retired farmer, a devoted churchwarden and story teller like no other. He chose a well-known carol by John Thomas, Pentrefoelas: ’Y bore hwn trwy buraf hedd…’ (‘This morning, in the purest peace, there’s the sound of true rejoicing’).

The old poet from Pentrefoelas was not unlike Tim Maesygroes, I imagine. He also had been farming and shopkeeping in his village back in the eighteenth century. He was the church bell-ringer or sexton, rather than a churchwarden and part of the sexton’s job in many parishes in those days was composing carols for the Plygain service. I knew the carol, having sung it many times, but was suddenly aware of the deep meaning of the simple words:

This is the day that good news came

From heaven to Bethlehem Judea;

God appeared in the flesh,

He truly is our Brother.

The amazing paradox of the God-man is emphasised yet again, this time by a shopkeeper and farmer from deep in the countryside who had been steeped in the tradition and teaching of the church and the Scriptures.

According to Archbishop Michael Ramsay the sign of the best theology is that it is simple but profound – simple enough for Saint Peter the ordinary fisherman and profound enough for Saint Paul the brilliant thinker, if you like. That is what Christmas carols of our Christian heritage here in Wales possess. Through the amazing paradox of God’s coming in the flesh we perceive a continuous vision for our personal spiritual pilgrimage.

Anyway, that is my experience.