Thursday, December 28, 2006

One year on...

Well, as of 29th December 2006, this little bloglet is a year old. Thanks to the folk who do click in regularly, I hope you've found this first year interesting and thank you for the comments.

I've learned a lot this year about myself and about the state of the Church.

This is how I began:

Where do I start? I am a Catholic, not a Roman one, mind you, though I'd dearly
love to be in Communion with His Holiness for whom I have a profound respect.
No, I'm an Anglo-Catholic in the Church of England, though if the decision goes
through to "ordain" women as bishops then I'm dropping the Anglo bit. I remain
in the Church of England since I was born into it, and I don't really wish to
leave it.I'm a schoolteacher, but I confess that I don't like it very much for
various reasons both political and personal. I am exploring a vocation into
Benedictine Orders. So becoming an OSB may fulfil my love of academic study and
my Catholic affectations. The trouble is that Anglican Religious orders seem to
be on the wane. This would be a disaster if this actually happens.I have a lot
of friends in the Continuum, i.e. those Anglo-Catholics standing outside the
Anglican communion. My dearest wish is that somehow all those various Catholic
denominations should strive for a unity which will fight the growing menaces of
Liberalism, Relativism and Individualism that are infecting the Church as well
as society. Such a wish can only come through prayer, but we need the prayer
centres too. Pass me my hassock, please.

Well, I don't call myself an Anglo-Catholic these days except only as a rough guide to where my churchmanship lies since few people have heard of the Anglo-Papalists. Indeed, if I'm asked, I always say that I am Catholic. If anyone is astute to notice my Church of England Readers' badge then I have some explaining to do. I've certainly learned more about my Papistical leanings and the fact that Anglicanism does need the Church of Rome for guidance in its doctrine. This position has been ratified for me by the rati-zinger himself , His Holiness Pope Benedict, who demonstrates the importance for the Church to be faithful to its Tradition.

Following the C of E's declaration that women in the Episcopate is consonant with Anglican Understanding, I am at present waiting to see what the "brief from Hell" is going to propose before I make my decision whether I need to swim or not. I am constantly reviewing this situation which is far from ideal. I certainly do not consider myself to be an Anglican if Anglicanism is consonant with women "bishops".

As for my Benedictinism, well, that's on hold for a little while as I get used to my new job. I continue to develop my relations with Elmore Abbey in the hope that some more formal affiliation may result. I have found St Benedict very useful for balancing my life out.

So one year on sees some growth and some change but still the same problems and irritations. We are stuck with the -isms, including the Neo-Arianism that Dan Brown seems to be selling as well as Gnosticism. These can only be fought by working on our beliefs as set down in Scripture and communicated through the Church. History does not fight the Church, it is modern historians who are trying to make it look as if the Catholic Church is responsible for cover-ups and conspiracies. I cannot see what it would gain from doing so.

This year I do need to do more study, my Latin is horrible, my Greek worse and my Hebrew appalling. As I settle in my new job then hopefully I shall find the time to work on some things that I've laid aside for a while such as the proper ministry of Women and the "Natural Sacraments" that I proposed last year. No - I hadn't forgotten. Perhaps you wish I had!

Well here's to another twelve months.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Feast of the Nativity

Well, it's here, Christmas Day! While arranging the lettering for the Parish Alternative Christmas Card, I did find that the phrase "Happy Christmas" had a rude but rather pertinent anagram about the sham which the Modern "Christmas" appears to be. Of course it's only a sham if we haven't used Advent to prepare for the Baby to be born anew in our hearts.

But why is this just a Christmas thing? I wonder how many parishioners actually prepare themselves for Mass which itself points to a strange amalgamation of events of the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of the Lord as well as continues to bring him afresh into our bodies as well as our lives. We seem all too ready to say that Easter is more important than Christmas because of what happened on Good Friday, and then we seem ready to argue as to whether Good Friday is more important than Easter Sunday. It's an act of hammering the Eternal into the Temporal.

We divide up the year into seasons because we are Temporal, we don't have a choice, but we have to remember that each season cannot be separated from any other.

Christmas shows us the Divine Miracle, the Great Sacrament, and is inextricably linked with Easter Day. Even from His Birth the world around the Christ-Child points to His Sacrifice as the deaths of the poor little Holy Innocents show. Even now we must live with their deaths, and we must live with His Death too, but we live with His Resurrection, and by this the Holy Innocents themselves find life anew.

So rather than focus on one event of the life of Christ at a time, let us allow the Holy Ghost to lead us through the life of Christ wherever He wills, and show us each as individuals and collectively as a Church how that life of Christ is to be lived in us.

I hope you have a happy, loving and fulfilling Christmas, and I pray that you will find 2007 a joyful and prosperous year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Change and decay in all around I see.

A conclusion that I drew from my last post was that the way that the Truth reveals Itself overrides all ways of thinking about the Truth. The Truth is not a slave to the fashion unlike the the ways of the Athenians whom the Acts of the Apostles tell us "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." (Acts xvii.21)

I believe that we are today very much like the Athenians, always looking out for where the zeitgeist blows us, and alter our theologies in order to take into account the "newness" of the the ideas. And then comes Qoheleth, who says: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

As was written before, we are new every day, yet this belies our transience. We are the ones that change and alter, who grow and decay. This is not a characteristic of the Truth which is eternal. His Revelation to us does not change or alter because, despite our newness, the human race does not change in its need for God. Our technology and understandings of how things work may appear to be new. Indeed, at no other time in the existence of the human race has transglobal communication been as instantaneous as the present age.

However, Humanity itself does not change, and largely, neither does Humanity's understanding of Humanity. Our understanding of society is as rudimentary as it was in Abrahamic times. Our psychologies contradict each other and seem to explain very little. Our Anthropologies turn up evidence for one method of social behaviour and then another study performed a few years contradicts the first. Our understanding of what is good for us changes with the opinions of the scientists who happen to be in charge of the research at the time.

Science (Scientia Omnisciens the goddess of human reason) itself seeks answers, but can only come to replace God with other unprovable statements such as the existence of parallel universes which can never be observed or measured because, by definition, they are parallel to ours and never meet. When they do, they interact in something like the Big Bang so any information about this universe is lost in a melee of chaotic ripples.

All this leads to a question: How does the Revelation of the Truth apply to the current age? Well since the Truth is Eternal, "current age" makes sense only to those of us in the present. It is possible that you may be reading this long after I am gone, so the age will cease to be current for me, but it will be current for you.

It is the Church Militant that carries the Revelation to the inhabitants of the current age, and it is thus her duty to adhere to the Revelation and to engage it in conversation with those of the present. Thus the Church Militant has the difficult job of communicating the Eternal with the Temporal. The language it must use must be that of the Eternal Truth yet in a way that is communicable to the Temporal. To try and communicate Eternity to the Temporal is impossible but the aim of the Church Militant is to set the Temporal on the route to the Eternal. The language used will be strange and unclear except with much prayer, thought and meditation.

For example, the use of Latin to the modern Catholic, or the language of King James to the young churchgoer are both incomprehensible at first, yet with the encouragement and loving supoort of the church around, the language is learned. The subtle nuances within the Scripture and within the Liturgy add to the earnest soul's discovery of God which must be undertaken with the Church because only the Church has the key to hold together the Temporal with the Eternal.

To aid this process, Scriptures are translated into the modern vernacular, Liturgies embrace new forms. However, unless they do not point directly and clearly to Eternity, if they try to explain everything in simple language, if they attempt to remove the Mystery which results from the discrepancy between Temporality and Eternity, then they are useless, and worse than useless because they point away from the Truth.

Likewise, the Teaching of the Church comes from Eternity and does not change: it is immutable.
New Doctrines do grow as Humanity's discovery of God grows. Abraham realises that God exists and is worth obeying. Moses realises that God is powerful and faithful. Elijah realises that God is not just some mountain deity. The Apostles realise that God is personable and loving. New Doctrine grows as Humanity seeks God in His Eternity and only then does Humanity grow. If God makes it clear that there is a practice that is not right, then He doesn't change His ruling be it in the 20th century BC or the 20th Century AD. Thus the Teaching of the Church does not change: she is still engaged in her Mission of guiding the Temporal to the Eternal.

So rejoice that however temporal you are, you have a place in the Church Militant. If you are faithful then know that you will then have a place in the Church Triumphant when the Temporality of the Church will cease to be all that we human beings participate in, but participate in the Eternal Worship of God.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Science and Religion IV: What is Truth?

As a mathematician, the central and underlying concept at the basis of mathematical thought is the concept of truth. We build mechanisms to discern whether a given statement possesses the quality called truth. It's interesting that in a subject like mathematics where the concepts and constructions do not actually possess a concrete reality, there is nonetheless acceptable statement and method of proof. Even though Goedel says that there will be statements in any axiomatic system of logic which cannot be given the labels "true" or "not true", one can, in mathematics, easily disprove the existence of a quantity, something which many folks find hard to understand.

Now, I have never studied philosophy - at least not properly. My grasp of the tenets of philosophical veracity are undeveloped to say the least. I have never read Plato, or Socrates and have managed only a smidgin of Aristotle - I have never had the time - so I will disappoint anyone who has any more of a grounding in the noble subject. However, my brain does function on what I believe to be reasonably sound rational principles: I'm citing the success in my mathematical studies as evidence to support this.

The issue I've been contemplating is this. We can be dreadfully solipsist and disbelieve the existence of everything other than our own being or we can agree with another person on what is true. There thus exists a whole series of "truths" in the World each where two or more people have concurred, yet these are nothing more than subjective truths. The Big Bang is a truth, the Hebdominal Creation is another, and yet they contradict. Or do they not?

Well this is the crunch: surely the only way that we can be certain of the truth is for us to know everything, and I do mean everything - knowing what Reality really is, knowing both beyond the Planck length and above the scale of the the Great Attractor or the Cosmic String if such objects exist. Then we can say truly "the Sun will come up tomorrow".

So if we are not omniscient, then all truth is relative and subjective, there is no objective truth... unless there is a God.

Note of course that this is not a proof for the existence of God. God cannot be proved like a theorem from the reason of men. His existence as pure being means that He is the Truth as He always claimed, because only His existence is independent of that which He has created.

This surely means that His Truth exists beyond the philosophies of human beings. If God exists (and I believe He does) then Truth is an absolute, transcending all the fashionable thinking of any age. He doesn't change, and neither does the revelation that He shows us. Truth must be revealed or its existence as Truth is meaningless, and while God has the right not to reveal Himself, He does not wish human beings to live meaningless lives. Thus we have an utterly intransigent and hence reliable Revelation of an unchanging and Eternal God given to the Church. Now, we can look at that Revelation through various viewpoints, but the Truth remains the same, because the Truth is independent of viewpoint, otherwise there is something inherently wrong with the method of discerning the Truth.

So we are stuck with the same Scriptures, the same Liturgies, the same Collects, year in year out because they are our discoveries of communicating with the Truth, and we can ask where is the newness, the freshness, the change. And Truth tells us, "well, that is you."

Shameless publicising!

...Well actually, not!

You see The Continuum is up for an Anglican Blog award, and quite frankly, it deserves to win.

Whereas the readership of my little blogling is not as vast as that of Albions, if you haven't already done so, please follow this link to the nominations and vote for the Continuum.
It would be a meaningful occurrence if the Continuing movement could be recognised for something it is good at, rather than for the impression of vitriolic spikiness that we are reputed to possess.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We wish you a measured Christmas

My second at school.

Homily preached at Eltham College on 3rd and 4th December 2006.

Presents given:
Catherine Tate DVD for Mum;
Duran Duran CD for Dad (not that he has a good taste in music);
Skateboard for Grandma,
Beyonce Knowles Calendar for Grandad,
Box of chocs for elder sister;
Doctor Who box set for younger brother.
Total expenditure £106.78.

Presents received:
New PS2 game from Mum;
Latest Gorillaz Album from Dad (told you he didn’t have any taste in music);
A day’s abseiling from Grandma;
Beyonce Knowles Calendar from Grandad;
£20 worth of mobile credits from elder sister;
DVD of Spiderman versus the Teletubbies from younger brother, (what planet is the boy on?)
Total income: £106.78

So what’s the point? How is this different from spending £106.78 on yourself at another time of the year? Wouldn’t it have been better just forgetting about Christmas and just finding something good for yourself for £106.78, after all, who wants Spiderman versus the Teletubbies DVD?

Why bother with all the hassle of traipsing round looking for appropriate presents to get the family?

It’s like birthdays. You can put a manky old £10 note in your brother’s birthday card to him, and, lo and behold, on your birthday there’s a manky old £10 note in your birthday card. Is it the same one? Well it might as well be.

So what is the point?


If we look at Christmas as a purely commercial holiday, then we lose something important. £106.78 in and £106.78 out, so on balance we break even. But how do we feel if we don’t break even? Guilty if we have spent less than them than they on us?
Upset because we have spent more on them than they on us?

Is it right to measure Christmas like this? Should we say that we’ve had a successful Christmas just because we’ve broken even with what we’ve bought and what we’ve been given?


Perhaps part of a successful Christmas comes in actually thinking about the people we’re buying presents for. We know that Grandad will be more than happy with his Beyonce Knowles calendar, but is there something else that might be more fitting?

The cliché says that it’s the thought that counts, but it’s more than just a thought. We can think about getting Dad a brand new Ferrari but if all we really get him is a Toffee Crisp, then it’s not saying much for how serious our thought was.

The bloke whose birthday we are supposed to be celebrating suggests that we should give to people who cannot give in return. This act tests our sincerity of spirit.

The thought has to be balanced with action: we have to prepare ourselves to do something to find the gifts for the family and friends that we have around us. The key to a successful Christmas is preparation.


The shops have been preparing for Christmas since December 26th last year. What’s new? The Christmas trees and reindeer are hauled out early so as to remind people that Christmas is nearly here because we are likely to forget, aren’t we?

The Infant Schools have been preparing for Christmas since October which is why all the Coco Pops boxes have disappear at the beginning of November and strange cardboard masks bearing only a vague resemblance to sheep and oxen start to grace Reception class windows, frightening all the passers-by. Teachers have been struggling to find a politically correct script.

Without proper and careful preparation, the School Nativity play turns into Nightmare on Elm Street part 8: The Mangling.

Christians call the preparation for Christmas Advent which as you know comes from the Latin word advenire meaning “to arrive”, and it is a time of preparing the heart to receive the Christ-child anew in our lives.


We think of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary preparing herself to have her baby, and Joseph too, preparing to receive a child that is not his. In the East, Persian Astrologers have been preparing charts and calculations to find the place and time of the birth of the new Messiah. Elsewhere, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth in nursing an infant John the Baptist, who will grow up to cry “Prepare the way of the Lord”

Without these key people preparing carefully, there would have been no Christmas, at least not as we know it now.

Likewise if we do not prepare ourselves for Christmas, then we miss a time of year which is special to all of us. We miss the smiles on the faces of our family and friends when they open our gifts to them. We miss enjoying the partying and celebration, if we treat it as any old time of the year.

So just how are you going to prepare for Christmas?

How are you going to make it not just about the presents?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Generation Game

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church Swanscombe on Advent Sunday 2006 based on St Luke xxi.25-36

[Long pause, waiting for something to happen. After a minute waiting, I begin.]

Frustrating isn’t it?

When you’re not sure
what you’re supposed to be waiting for,
nor when it will happen,
nor quite what the consequences
of it will be.

It stresses you out.

Elaine is annoyed.

Her favourite programme
is on after the football,
and she has just switched on
only to find that
Jose Beckham
or David Shilton,
or Diego Smith,
or whoever is supposed to be playing,
is lining up the 150th penalty shot
at the end of another nil-nil draw.

What is she to do?

Should she switch over or off,
or should she stick it out
becoming ever more concerned
that the BBC will actually
take off her favourite programme
because the football has over-run?

The trouble with waiting is
that it leaves you in a quandary:
should I wait a little longer
or do something else.


Elaine thinks that
surely the 150th penalty shot
must be a sign that
the game is coming to the end.

The players must be tired,
and they are likely to make mistakes,
so one of them is bound
to score a penalty very soon.
That goalie is looking a little bit floppy.

She watches expectantly,
hoping that her programme will be on shortly,
as Bobby Shearer lines up the shot,
walks back,
takes a run up,

The trouble is,
we know that the end of the game is near
because we’re on the penalties,
but the 150th penalty doesn’t mean
that the next penalty will be the last,
it could go on indefinitely.

Even then
Elaine has got the interminable
post-match analysis
to sit through.

Do you ever find yourselves
in situations like that?

What is the limit of your patience?


Do you find yourself
becoming more impatient
with the world around you?

How do you feel when Jesus says
“There will be signs
in the sun,
in the moon,
and in the stars;
and on the earth
distress of nations with perplexity,
the sea and waves roaring”?

Do you find yourself thinking
“Is it now?

Is God coming back tomorrow”?


Are you ready for Him if he does?


We certainly see signs around us.
Distress seems an inadequate word
to describe the situation
in the Middle East.

We’ve been told
that all around us
the climate is changing.

The Sun may be getting hotter;
scientists say the expansion of Universe
is actually speeding up.

Aren’t these the signs
that the Lord tells us will happen
before He came back?

But the Lord also says,
“this generation will by no means pass away
till all these things take place.”

So, if Jesus is talking
first to the folk 2000 years ago,
hasn’t the generation that He speaks of
passed away?

Does this mean
that we have actually missed
the second coming of the Lord?

Well, clearly not.

So is Jesus wrong?

—after all He is on record for saying
that even He doesn’t know
when the Day of the Lord
is, was or will be.

Do you really think that He’s wrong?

But this has profound
implications for our belief.

If Jesus is wrong about this,
He could be wrong about
a whole host of things.


Think about it.

What do we believe?

Do we believe that Jesus is risen from the dead?

Yes – it’s the heart of our faith.

So this means that He is alive.

Is He with us now?

Well, yes, He promises to be with all His children.

this is Mass – His Presence is more obvious here,
because we come to Mass
for the purpose of meeting and receiving Him,
and He us.

So can He still talk to us?

Well, doesn’t He always?

Surely we can hear Him say to us
“this generation,
(our generation)
will not pass away
until all these things take place.”

He is not talking about His coming again,
He’s telling us that there will always be
these signs around us
that point to His coming.

There are Christians
who will look to the Apocalypse,
the Book of Revelation
to reveal what’s going to happen.

They speak of beasts and horrible plagues.

But Revelation doesn’t tell us
what’s going to happen in the future.

It speaks of events that have already happened
in Roman times
mixed together with events beyond Time,
so we can’t rely on it.

There isn’t going to be a Rapture.

The Lord will not come again
until every person has heard
the Good News
of the Lord’s love for us.

He gives everyone the opportunity
to make an informed choice
– to love Him, or not.

The reason he hasn’t already come
is because He wants you to believe in Him
and have the same chance of Eternal life
as our parents
our grandparents,
our great grandparents
in fact all the generations
who have gone before us
and the generations who will come after us.

So, if the Lord is not going to tell us
when He is coming,
why should we worry about the future?

There will always be wars
and rumours of wars,
and storms,
and the most terrible catastrophes
to befall mankind.

But Jesus says
that we must not worry
about them happening,
but to use them to look to Him
and remember His presence.

Then we go out and tend to those
who have been hurt by these disasters.

If we spend our time
worrying about the future we cannot control,
then we forget about the people
whose present is appalling,
and who need our love, help and support.

Our future is safe in the hands of God.

We trust Him to love us and save us, don’t we?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Truth and Me

laetare ergo iuvenis in adulescentia tua et in bono sit cor tuum in diebus iuventutis tuae et ambula in viis cordis tui et in intuitu oculorum tuorum et scito quod pro omnibus his adducet te Deus in iudicium

Rejoice, therefore, young man in your youth and may your heart be in good things in the days of your vigour; so walk in the ways of your heart and in the perception of your eyes and know that through all these things God will draw you to judgment.

Ecclesiastes xi.9 (translation from Vulgate by yours truly, forgive me)

Ecclesiastes is a snapshot of an earthly life without God and, quite frankly, makes for depressing reading unless we actually bother to let God read it with us. I've recently stumbled on this verse and I must confess not to feel so comfortable in considering its implications.

Here is a verse that speaks loudly of self-satisfaction. Looking at society around, we see that the media loves young folk who are bright, shiny and pretty. It undresses them, poses them and exploits them, and because the sensations are entirely pleasurable, not only do these youngsters permit it to happen, they try to defend this way of life. To qualify as a good musician you have to display three yards of midriff with a gaudy bauble mutilating your navel. And what happens when the youth fades and things start to sag southwards? Deparation and oblivion.

Interesting: you can't spell "youth" without "you"?

Throughout that verse we see the words tua, tuum, tuae, tui, tuorum, all singular possessive pronouns relating to one individual, all expressing a desire to cut off that which does not belong to the self until God Himself Who actually owns that very self - te - in its entirety decides that it has rendered itself unusable.

It's very easy when we're young to believe that we have the world all sussed out. Pierre Simon de Laplace famously declared that he did not need the "hypothesis" of God's existence because he believed that the Universe was clockwork, like a gargantuan cuckoo clock. When you have grown up and made a beginning of a life for yourself on your terms, away from the parents, it's easy to think you have it all right. Then you sit down and watch the news and form your own opinions of life, of how it is and how it ought to be.

It's unfair that people are starving in Africa.
It's unfair that gay people are being persecuted.
It's unfair that women are regarded as second class citizens.

Absolutely right on all counts. No one should starve, no one should be persecuted, no-one should be a second class citizen. However it is very easy to use one's own reasoning to conclude:

It's unfair that gay priests cannot enjoy a sexual relationship.
It's unfair that women cannot be priests and bishops.
It's unfair that those who oppose such things spend more time on these little issues than on dealing with the starving in Africa.

These are the conclusions drawn by Society around us, including those vehemently opposed to the message of the gospel, and as such they take no account of the Church as a whole. Not even His Holiness the Pope can enforce his beliefs on the Church, though he can guide and assist, and (if you believe in his Infallibility) only at the bidding of the whole Church, past and present, can he pronounce doctrine. Of course if you aren't a Roman Catholic (or Ultramontane Anglo-Papalist) then you argue that the Pope hasn't that authority over the whole church.

But the point is, the Truth is only apparent from the Church as a whole, not from individuals, but a collected effort to hear the word of God and hear the Word of God. Collectively the Church is infallible, not as individuals. Those who disagree with the church are welcome to disagree, they have that right, indeed God willingly and lovingly gives them that right, but at the end of the day, an individual cannot pronounce what is True unless he or she speaks the Doctrine of the Church. We must therefore submit to Church Doctrine, though it will cause us pain to do so. But God does promise that whoever does suffer pain because of obedience to Christ's Rule has truly circumcised his heart in Christ (which must necessarily be terribly painful) and is now party to the New Covenant of Christ. Gratia deo!

Thus those who reject the Church, may have wonderful lives, but as they walk away from God, God Himself will have to make a grave and bitter decision, not without tears I believe. Choose God and thus His Church, or choose Death. The choice is simple.