Sunday, April 29, 2007

Filling the void.

I've rediscovered something about my situation, and indeed the situation about the Church. It's clear that the Church is not complete without Christ, so surely the inherent disunity of the Church is the frantic search to find its completion. Perhaps the Catholic Church is united right now as I write these words, but this unity is only something that can be clearly seen from the eschatological point of view.

Are we too close to the problem to see its solution? After all, the solution won't come from us; it will come from God. Being an INTJ, I am designed to seek solutions to problems. Yet the real problem, the ultimate problem is that I am separated from Christ, just like any other Christian.

"For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread."

We pray these words at Mass, so if we believe that what we receive is indeed the Body of Christ, then surely we have some degree of unity whether the altar rails of the Holy See are closed or not. The obstacle of course is the contentious issue of the validity of Anglican Orders to the Holy See, which I have discovered is no longer as clear cut as Leo XIII wanted to make it in Apostolae Curae. If the Continuum can unite sufficiently and say categorically "we believe in the Real Presence of Christ" then there is some chance that the validity issue can be re-examined.

I can't see that happening until the Continuum demonstrates that it has a presence which can be regarded as significant to the Holy See. In Britain, the Continuum is seen as a tiny fragment of "crack-pots and intransigents playing at being church on their own" despite the fact that her priests really are priests &c and that they have a message of great validity and hope.

In a few years the Apostolicity of the Church of England will be actually lost, rather than just spiritually lost when the first female puts on a mitre. What preparations is the Continuum making for this happening? What will they do to attract those who will first try to seek solace in the Holy See? What will they do to entice the disaffected from just becoming "stay at home" Christians? What will they say to those who object but nevertheless will stay within the Church of England and just spiritually moulder away?

With schism will come the void and the Church groans because it is separate from her Master. Will we try to fill the void with intellectualisms and distractions, or will we seek to cross the void on the Pontificate of Christ? Just how do we cut the cackle, roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty to beckon those for whom the pain of just living is overwhelming? What is our unity worth if the debate it generates prevents us from tackling the disorders of society? Sure, get one's house in order first, but aren't the churches starting to say the same thing to society?

We must pray St John xvii with Our Lord beside us. We have to live out John xvii. Being in the world we are divided, yet being in Christ we are united. How can we make this utterly real and apparent in this wintry world in which the flames of passion are being doused by a false reason?

Only through faith, hope and love.

It's a start, if nothing else.

Reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church I found paragraph 818.

"However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers. . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."

I find this somewhat comforting because it does some justice to my view of my separation from the Holy See as being an accident of history. Of course it still denies me the epithet of Catholic in the eyes of Rome; it still denies me access to receiving the Sacrament with those in Communion with the Pope; it still requires me to have my confirmation repeated whether or not it regards it as sub conditione, but there is a start, a point of recognition.

I look at the Benedictine Order both those of the Anglican and Roman Catholic branches and I see the statement of the Catechism lived out. It is in places like Elmore and Prinknash that the schism, although present is thin. I for one pray for more to embrace the monastic orders because through their prayers and through their working of the Opus Dei, they are making some petition towards Unity. These Religious folk like Dom Kenneth Newing and Abbot Christopher Jamison are making a difference.

Please pray with me for more men and women to hear the call of God and take up the cross of Religious Orders.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another Seriously Confused Anglo-Papalist.

Perhaps it's inevitable that Anglo-Papalists should be confused. Fr. Vervoorst, before he went to Rome was the definitively Seriously Confused Anglo-Papalist.

I've been considering my position in the C of E for a long time, and my intention was to make my final decision as to whether to stay or go when the first woman "bishop" was brought into a very dubious idea of being. My thoughts there were that I would be joining a host of others who would be leaving at the same time. So have I changed my mind?

Well, it's difficult to say because my own position is more murky than ever. In the space of a year or so I have become a part of the Continuum, yet without being part of the Continuum, i.e. remaining as a Reader in a Church of England Parish yet not really regarding myself as a full member of the Church of England. Now quite reasonably my friends in the Continuum are desirous that I shake the dust off of my feet at the Church of England. But I don't just have friends in the Continuum, I also have some very good friends in the Church of England.

So do I move to the Continuum just to appease one bunch of friends, or do I remain where I am to appease the others?

Well, clearly neither. I don't stay or go just to satisfy the concerns of friends but I stay or move according to the will of God and I stay or move to the places where the Truth is being taught and they know and appreciate that fact because they love me unconditionally, a fact that I cherish dearly. Personally I'm amazed at how long I've managed to stick out my present parish.

But you see I'm an Anglo-Papalist.

I'm not a Romanizer, though I do love the Tridentine way of doing things, but the Anglican Tradition, as it has always stood, is rich and deeply spiritual. For me Anglo-Papalism is a refusal to take the idea of the schism of the Church lying down. Yes, there is a schism between Canterbury and Rome, and the Catholicism of the Anglican Church is not complete without communion with the Holy See.

So I watch as the Anglican Church schisms again. The effects of this schism has seen the appearance of the Continuing Anglican Parishes which seek to continue the Anglican Tradition. However many of these are not in Communion with each other which seems to suggest the presence of some schismatic influence which may or may not be a feature of the history of these Parishes. Personally, I feel that if there are schismatic issues here in the Continuum, then they result from the way that the Anglican Communion has moved away from the Anglican Continuum.

As an Anglo-Papalist, schism worries me.

My main worry about the Continuum is a fear that I have that the reasons for the separation are an intellectualisation which covers the and underlying "do it my way or I sha'n't play" attitude. That's quite a horrid thing to say on my part, and I'm sure that it is not the case since there is much integrity within these parishes. However, by and large there is a marked convergence between what the larger of these Jurisdictions teach and believe. The fact that there seems to be little desire for the Continuing Jurisdictions to talk and seek ways of unification, or at least conversation, does seem to lend weight to the argument that my fear could be true.

For me, the attraction of the Continuum is a stability of doctrine. That doesn't mean an atrophy of doctrine, but rather I see in each of my Continuum friends a desire to seek the truth within the confines of a system of dogmas, something that I hold very dear. Unlike mathematics which is based on axioms, our faith is based on dogmas. Mathematics builds on axioms whose truth cannot be disputed and results in theorems. Our faith is built on dogmas whose truth can be disputed and the act of dispute has a hand in unpacking those dogmas and revealing deeper, more intricate and beautiful truths. Thus heresy has a vital role to play in Christianity provided that the heresy is a means of sharpening our picture of the Truth. I wrote recently about the ACC and its guarantees that her priests are priests and that her Sacraments valid. That is something that cannot be said about the C of E.

What I do appreciate about the Church of England has been its historical struggle to hold together opposing viewpoints in some coherent way. Where it has failed has been in revising the Prayerbook in such a way as to diversify Common Prayer to the extent that the different wings of the Church started to pray differently from the others and subsequently lost touch. I blame the issues of condoning abortion, the "priesthood" of women and all the other divergences in doctrine on this revision. But still, in this, the province of my upbringing, there are signs of Christian love and charity, there are still validly ordained clergy who do uphold the Christian Faith, and there are still folk who inspire in me a deep admiration and reverence. In my conscience, the light of the Catholic Faith still burns in the C of E.

I am an Anglo-Papalist.

This means that I have no option but to try to hold the Holy See, the Continuum and the Church of England together in my heart and offer them all my love and support. What do I foresee? The only thing that I can foresee is that I end up ripped to shreds. I think I would rather that happen than for me to accept a quick-fix solution and denying the possibility that there is Truth outside that solution. I will be accused of trying to serve two masters. I don't see how since my only master is Christ. I'm trying to be Catholic, and since Catholic means "according to the whole" I am trying to be just that. I don't see why I should have to choose between Catholic Christians. One day I may take my rear from the fence: it will not be without thought, regret and tears.

Making the Most of Mass

Is there such thing as a perfect Mass? What would it look like? Would it be a Pontifical High Mass with Bishop, Deacon and Subdeacon and a swathe of incense obscuring the altar while the eternal dialogue follows the Tridentine Rite, or the Liturgy of St James? Well, not necessarily. There is no ostensible difference between a Mass that’s acted out on television as part of a play and one that’s done for real. The difference is necessarily that of intention.

Is there such thing as an imperfect Mass? Again, what would constitute such a thing? Clearly the sinfulness of the priest and the congregation don’t play a part, and as long as the priest is validly ordained, the Sacrament is present and thus perfection is literally within our grasp as the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If there is imperfection at Mass, then surely it’s the imperfection that comes from within us that mars the sacrament. It’s how we receive it that determines what its effect is for us. We are capable of refusing grace! Christ our God to Earth descendeth, will we recognise Him if we don't seek to find Him? Or in the Eastern Orthodox vein, at Mass we are lifted to God, but how will we know if we don't seek to be transported?

So why is it then that we get so uppity about how the Mass is done, which liturgy is used, which songs are sung, if at the end of it all the effect is the same and we are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ? Are we too bound by distractions from the norm? Yet if Mass is deliberately constructed to be precisely the same week after week, what difference would there be from reciting a magic spell, or pressing a button on a vending machine – a Host-O-Matic? Say the right words and ping! out pops God. Now surely that is a blasphemy worthy of Jack Chick! But how much do we treat our Masses like that?

It’s clear then that Mass is done with people as they are at the present time. Thus by embracing the fact that we are not the same people as those who attended Mass last time do we avoid the falseness of the vending machine Mass. Thus a necessary requirement is that we attend Divine Worship in the light of the Truth about who we really are. This truth is borne out in our acceptance of our sinfulness and physical frailty, and yet that, in possessing the image of God Himself, we are permitted to receive into ourselves what is truly the Body and Blood of our God.

Yet in recognising this truth, we come to Mass with another view – to give of our best in worship. The whole point of worship is that we focus on how much worth we put on our relationship with God. The word “worship” does have its roots in the idea of worth-ship. We therefore come to Mass with a view to considering how much value we place on God being present in our lives. I’ve worshipped in a parish in the Church of England where the Ciborium holding the Reserve Sacrament has been carried about like a mug of cocoa – what does that say about the worth of Christ in that parish? Of course, some parishes (probably most, theoretically all) in the C of E don’t hold to Transubstantiation, so one wonders about the level of consistency of belief and the resulting quality of worship. Lex orandi, lex credendi!

I’m struck mainly about the lack of thought that goes into Mass. With a lack of thought comes a deficiency in intention, and thus for many the effects of the Sacrament are compromised. Too many parishes seem to be engaged in an attempt to lure people into church with the right “ethos”, with the right music, or liturgy that explains everything, or a brilliant preacher. In so doing they have changed the object of worth into a bottom on a pew. The only way that the Church will grow is if people engage in a relationship with Christ that demonstrates the reverence and love we have for Him.

The Mass is the centre of our worship. It is where we encounter God physically. If we allow ourselves to be distracted from this central fact, if we allow dumbing-down of our admittedly and necessarily limited understanding of the Sacrament by the winds of false teaching, or by the insipid babble of prattled pious platitudes, if we do nothing to make some kind of preparation to come before God, then what’s the point of Mass, what’s the point of grace and what’s the point of faith?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Making a Sincere Apology

Services at Swanscombe were rather sparsely populated this Paschal-tide, leading me to question the commitment that people have to the faith. With this in mind, I wrote the following article for the Church magazine.

Did I come on too strong?

Making a Sincere Apology

Reading the Ecumenical Research Committee’s report on how people from all denominations (and none) view their local Church, there is an interesting statement from someone in the Midlands: “It is a myth to say that the people of this country have rejected Christianity, they simply haven’t been told enough about it to either accept it or reject it.”

If this is the case then it is a sad indictment about the missions of Christians in this country. If you think that it is just the job of the Rector to call people into church, then, quite frankly, it is that attitude as to why there are fewer people in church today and why the understanding of the Christian Faith is so poor. It is not the job of the priest to go around preaching the good news about Christ Jesus – it is the job of each and every Christian to go out and help the world see the truth of the Light of Jesus Christ. We have to become apologists – people who can say what they believe and why, and live that Faith responsibly and truly.

It is the job of the priest to serve those who are “called out of darkness into [God’s] marvellous light”. The Greek word for “called out” is “ekklesia” from which we get the word ecclesiastical. We are the ones who are served by the deacons, priests, bishops, and ultimately the Pope (who is titled “the servant of the servants of God”), and their service is so that we, the ones who are to go out, are well equipped to work at the coal-face of life bringing our Christian Faith with us. While it is good that our ministers go into schools and hospitals, these are not the only opportunities for getting people into church. In fact, the best way of getting people into church is for us to invite them!

What is not being suggested here is that we all go out and become soap-box preachers shouting “Repent for the End of the World is Nigh”. That approach in fact drives more people away. The best way for us to bear witness to our Christian faith is to live it, and live it well. This means a lot of discipline on our part and requires us to develop a growing and healthy relationship with Christ.

The Benedictine Rule has three aspects to it – commitment, obedience and self-examination, and it is these three aspects that can help us develop as good and fruitful Christians. It isn’t just for Benedictines!

First we need to make a firm commitment to the Church, both financially (since the Church is a non-profit organisation) and corporately. We do need to attend Church regularly. We cannot be armchair Christians. We cannot be those selfish folk who say “I’m spiritual but not religious”. If we’re expecting the priest to serve us on a Sunday Morning and are prepared to do nothing with the benefits from that service, then what is to stop God at the Day of Judgment saying “in truth, I never knew you”? Our relationship with Christ can only develop if we’re willing to help it develop. We’re not “once saved, always saved”, i.e., believing in God at one point in our lives and living terribly for the rest of it. We may be in the process of salvation by Faith, but that means co-operating with God. The Church needs members who are willing to help it in its mission to bring the light of Christ to a darkened world. This can only happen if its members are committed to the Church and engaged in praying to God with that Church.

This leads into obedience. We serve one God, and if we are to serve Him then we must hear His word through prayer and reading. The Holy Scripture is indeed the word of God, and it needs to be read frequently by every Christian – no exceptions. It needs to be read prayerfully and under the authority of the Church. Too many people (some important clergymen) have read their own interpretations into the Bible and have fallen into disobedience. In so doing, they have clouded the minds of their parishioners. It is important therefore to become obedient to the teachings of the Church. It is not a democracy, but governed by people who have been entrusted to work faithfully with the Sacred Tradition and who are themselves obedient to the Church. This puts a great deal of responsibility on our priests, that they should carefully and sincerely follow the Traditions of the Church so that they teach only what the Church has always taught.

Third, we need to examine ourselves carefully to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to serve God in the examples of Christ Jesus and our Holy Mother Mary. We need to work at finding out how we are sinning, ridding our lives of that sin, confessing it and receiving absolution. We need to examine our commitments to the Church and we need to examine how obedient we are.

A lot of work! Indeed, a lifetime’s work! But this is work that we do out of nothing but love for Christ. In doing His work we find out who He is and we find out more and more just how deeply we are loved by him. This is a job that we should find utterly fulfilling, though it will be tough. It is by living out our Faith that we will draw people to Christ. When people see the kindness that we show to each other, the love that we have for one another, the sincerity of our belief and the joy that we have from serving God, then they’ll want it too. But before we can go out and make a difference to people’s lives, we need to look and see what God needs to do with us.

Think about your faith and what it needs to grow and work for you. How might you go about deepening your understanding of the Christian Faith? How might you find out about what God is asking you to do for Him? How might you make yourself different from a person who comes to Church on Sunday but doesn’t really believe in everything that’s being said?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lo, the full final sacrifice

Due to computer troubles, I've not been able to post any reflections on the Great Triduum of the Christian year. However, I did have the privilege of singing Finzi's setting of Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice. The words I found terribly rousing before I realised (happily) that they are a translation of words of St Thomas Aquinas by Richard Crashaw. No wonder I was encouraged.

Lo, the full, final, Sacrifice
On which all figures fix’t their eyes.
The ransomed Isaac, and his ram;
The Manna, and the Paschal Lamb.

Jesu Master, just and true!
Our Food, and faithful Shepherd too!
O let that love which thus makes thee
Mix with our low Mortality,
Lift our lean Souls, and set us up
Convictors of thine own full cup,
Coheirs of Saints.

That so all may
Drink the same wine;
and the same way.
Nor change the Pasture, but the Place
To feed of Thee in thine own Face.

O dear Memorial of that Death
Which lives still, and allows us breath!
Rich, Royal food! Bountiful Bread!
Whose use denies us to the dead!
Live ever Bread of loves, and be
My life, my soul, my surer self to me.

Help Lord, my Faith, my Hope increase;
And fill my portion in thy peace.
Give love for life; nor let my days
Grow, but in new powers to thy name and praise.

Rise, Royal Sion! rise and sing
Thy soul’s kind shepherd, thy heart’s King.
Stretch all thy powers; call if you can
Harps of heaven to hands of man.
This sovereign subject sits above
The best ambition of thy love.

Lo the Bread of Life, this day’s
Triumphant Text provokes thy praise.
The living and life-giving bread,
To the great twelve distributed
When Life, himself, at point to die
Of love, was his own Legacy.

O soft self-wounding Pelican!
Whose breast weeps Balm for wounded man.
All this way bend thy benign flood
To’a bleeding Heart that gasps for blood.
That blood, whose least drops sovereign be
To wash my worlds of sins from me.

Come love! Come Lord! and that long day
For which I languish, come away.
When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
And drink the unseal’d source of thee.
When Glory’s sun faith’s shades shall chase,
And for thy veil give me thy Face.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Carnis resurrectiónem, vitam ætérnam

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church Swanscombe based on Ezechiel xxxvii.1-10, I John v.4-12, John xx.19-23

Gus struggles to his foot
as the rest of the congregation begins
to recite the Apostles’ Creed.

He lost his foot at Dunkirk
and the rest of that leg is still suffering
the effects of shrapnel.

These 60 years of wandering around
on crutches have given him
terrible arthritis in one hip and knee
as well as various aches and pains
in his shoulders.

It pains him to stand.
It pains him to sit.
It pains him to lie down.

So how do you think he feels
when he reaches in the Creed
the words
“the Resurrection of the Body
and the Life Everlasting”?

The Church says that on the Last Day
we will all be raised,
like the Lord Jesus,
from the dead not as disembodied souls,
but as human beings with physical bodies
able to see, hear, smell,
feel and taste.

Do you think Gus wants to believe that?

Do you think he would want
to spend the Life Everlasting
with the body that he has now?


The next day,
Gus visits the doctor.

“Gus, we’ve got a new painkiller here.

It’s called Disagonyzin
and it should ease that pain you’re suffering.

Take one three times a day.”

Gus readily receives
the prescription
and makes his way to the Chemist.

It’s really effective.

Gus has the best night’s sleep he’s had in ages.

He’s out of bed easily,
and it’s a good thing.

He’s wanted to be ready
to see his new granddaughter,
Erica, for the first time.

Erica is just five days old
and apparently is a real cutie,
with beautiful pink skin and lots of hair.

He washes and shaves with ease.

He’s especially pleased
because the Disagonyzin
has taken the edge off of shaving.

It isn’t half as uncomfortable
as it was before.

He’s smartens himself up
and gets ready for the bus ride to the hospital.

On the bus,
Mrs Mills’ shopping trolley
runs over Gus’s foot.

It hurts,
but it isn’t the agony that Gus
would have expected.

“This pain-killer is really wonderful,”
thinks Gus,
“even Mrs Mills’ bumper packets of Daz
don’t hurt me that much!”

At the bus stop,
he’s off and away like a three-legged whippet.

He wouldn’t normally be able
to do that without severe pain,
and Gus is glad because
he is really excited about seeing
his little Erica.

Soon he is beside Julie’s bed
gazing at Erica lying across
her mum’s chest.

“Why don’t you hold her, Dad?” asks Julie.

Gus gently picks up the little one
from her mother and cradles her.

“She’s lovely,” he says beaming.

“Isn’t she?” says Julie,
“she’s got the softest skin,
and her hair is so thick and silky,
don’t you think?”

Gus strokes Erica’s hair and cheek, and frowns.

“I don’t know how soft her skin is.
I don’t know how silky her hair is.
I can’t feel them.”


Do you believe in the Resurrection of the Body
and the Life Everlasting?

After all, if there is no body,
then there is certainly no pain.

There are no nerves to feel
the aches of the human condition:
stubbed toes,
and the more severe pains
are all meaningless
either in a body that is numbed to pain,
or for a soul without a body.

But, as Gus realises,
the soul without a body
is also numbed to
the more wonderful sensations of life,
the warmth of the sun,
the nursing of a baby,
the taste of home-made chocolate cake.

If there is no Resurrection of the Body,
then our destiny is to become disembodied souls,
clinging onto vague memories
of what it was like
to be given a peck on the cheek
or to drink a cup of tea.

Is that Heaven?

What is the point of God giving us bodies
if we are only destined to lose them,
and all the joys that go with them?


Human beings are unique among God’s creation.

Animals are just bodies without souls;
angels are just souls without bodies;
human beings have both.

We are a unique fusion of body and soul.

This is how we are meant to be.

We’re not supposed to be split into two things
– a body and a soul –
but rather we are incomplete
if we are one without the other.

We are neither animal, nor angel.

Look at Ezechiel standing amongst the dry bones.

Watch as, with a rattling louder than
Patrick Moore’s xylophone
after he’s downed a gallon of Red Bull,
they are put back together
and given flesh,
but they are not human until God
breaths their spirits into them.

See that God raises the dead,
body and soul together.

If we cannot accept this,
then we deny the Resurrection of Christ in the flesh,
and if we deny the Resurrection of Christ
then we cannot be Christian,
and if we are not Christian
then we cannot be saved.


“Behold, I make all things new,” says God.

The body we have at the last day
will be able to experience
all the wonderful things we can feel now
but not pain.

St John tells us:
“there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow,
nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things
are passed away.”

It won’t be that we are numbed to pain,
but rather there will be nothing in Heaven to hurt us.

As Sam Tyler is told in “Life on Mars”,
it is only when we feel nothing
that we know we are truly dead.

If there is no Resurrection of the Body,
then the pain we suffer now
is meaningless.

We simply will not feel the love of God,
we will not live
– there will have been no Resurrection.

Would you honestly choose
an Eternity of numbness
over all those wonderful sensations
God really does have planned for you?

The Church believes in
the Resurrection of the Body.
Do you?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The shape of things to come?

Sometimes the Internet seems such an impersonal thing - indeed one could easily come to the conclusion that the people who email and comment on message boards are figments of the imagination and/or programmed responses given by the computer like a chinese box.

However, today I can refute this technological solipsism in the shape of Albion Land and the various members of the Anglican Catholic Church with whom I received communion with their gracious permission today. Albion, as you may know runs The Continuum blog and is striving to hear God's vocation for him realised as a priest in the ACC. Certainly my prayers go with him.

Today has been very special as I have witnessed my first ordination, and received the Sacrament with people who actually agree with me (more or less) with what is happening in the Eucharist. I also heard Fr Damien Mead's sermon based upon the sermon of a previous bishop (now at peace) written for ordinations. What struck me was that for once I was receiving a guarantee - a guaranteed Sacrament administered by a guaranteed bishop (The Rt Rev'd Rommie Starks) in a church which has orders guaranteed by the Grace of God. The Church of England cannot guarantee that her own priests believe the orthodox faith judging from the recent comments by Dr Jeffrey John.

While I am, like Fr. Vervoorst was, confused about my role in a confused church, I am beginning to see some where that I may be calling home. Pray for me please that I may hear God's will in this matter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Roman Reflections III: The Biggie

So far I've made two reflections on the Romans. The previous reflection was somewhat illicit in that I seemed to have got hooked up on one word in amid the bustle of Holy Week. I hope that's forgivable.

Howver, I suppose the big issue that results from Romans is the whole idea of Justification and the ructions that it brings out in Protestants. However I don't seem to be able to find this issue at all in the Epistle to the Romans.

What I principally see is St Paul making a very important observation. As human beings we are bean counters: we count every bean that comes in, and every bean that comes out. Following Newton's third law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If we do work, then we expect a reward, after all Holy Scripture does say that the worker deserves his wages.

So here then is St Paul's beef against the materialistic bean counters. We cannot go through life with the attitude that God owes us something. We cannot assume that we in any way deserve a reward for what we do for the simple reason that we are comparing the finite and coarse effects of our actions against the infinite and exacting specifics of our Divine Master.

Ours is not a worker-employer relationship with God, we cannot talk about earnings and wages. It is a slave-master relationship in which we realise that somehow we've ended up with a master who actually wishes us a great deal of love and respect. We cannot any longer talk of justification in terms of debt or reward or of rights, but only as a grace of God. If we live measuring everything in terms of credit-debit, loss-gain, earnings-owings, then that is precisely how we will be judged. The relationship with God, and with each other, has to be one of love, respect and acceptance.

This means that our justification does not come without our cooperation otherwise there is no such thing as free will and subsequently no love. We are slaves with the interesting position in that we choose our master. This position comes entirely from the desire of God for us to love Him as He is. Our chief sin is putting ourselves in the master position - self-worship. To whomsoever we give our allegience as master, we will be with that master for Eternity - where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

We do have to cooperate for our justification. Romans viii. 1 says "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." We need to be walking, exercising ourselves into the ways and means of Christ, finding Him out for ourselves, seeing Him in the others around us, fixing our heart on Him and allowing them to be opened. If we want to be saved, then we need to know the Saviour. This requires research and effort. In order to receive the Sacrament we need to find out where it is and walk to it, our hands outstretched, our mouths open in the full hope of the love of God. Are we going to be, as it says in Proverbs, so lazy that we do not put the food into our own mouths?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Roman Reflections II: the Ark of the New Covenant

As we approach the awful and yet wonderful Triduum, we recollect the first Eucharist and the Lord proclaiming the New Covenant in His blood. The next day He bleeds on the Cross, and dies, His lifeblood spent.

Catholic Piety places Our Lady cradling the dead Christ in her arms. No doubt His blood smears upon her as she struggles with His limp, lifeless frame. The Litany of Loreto gives one of Our Lady's epithets as "the Ark of the Covenant" and I think that Paul's epistle to the Romans gives us a glimpse of why.

In the twenty-fifth verse of the third chapter, the Lord is described as being the hilasterion. The word does indeed mean the "propitiation" of our sins, but it also refers to the lid, the mercy seat, of the Ark of the Covenant on which the blood of a sacrifice was dripped after being sacrificed on the altar.

Clearly this word hilasterion points us towards the sacrifice of the Mass, in which the Lord's New Covenant in His blood poured for us upon the Ark of His mother after the sacrifice upon Christ as altar. In this horrible scene of a devastated mother holding the body of her son, which only thirty years early she cradled as a baby, do we see this propitiation effected.

Whether or not you believe Our Lady to be Immaculately Conceived, her example is very clear to us. If we are truly going to be justified in the eyes of God then we must allow ourselves to have His lifeblood poured out upon us which effects our reconciliation. In so doing, our hearts will be broken in order to be a part of His life, just as Our Lady's heart was pierced by the lances of men in the body of Our Lord. She is part of His life, and now she has her position as Queen of Heaven.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Roman Reflections I: eritheia - the greatest sin of them all

I've been trying to understand the Letter to the Romans which hitherto I've always found difficult, so I've made a point to study the Greek a little over Holy Week. So far I've finished the first three chapters which are proving amazingly rich. I'm not surprised why this letter has been the inspiration for many.

So far I see very much the heart of our sinfulness is the word eritheia meaning "electioneering or intriguing for office". It conjures up images of those who constantly put themselves first, and in the process making light of God.

It is in making light of God in which we ruin our chances of repentance. By ignoring His kindnesses, we find ourselves unable to return to Him, but if we don't think much of God, what incentive do we have to amend our sinful lives? The whole basis of our Salvation is in the honesty in which we regard God as our ruler and Father. Refusal to see ourselves as His children seems to be one of the driving forces behind eritheia, that we look always to increase our standing, our independence, we look to define ourselves in the way that we want to be defined.

However, if we truly seek God, then we should first seek Him as our Father. Do we really expect to know who we are if we are still children? We only think we know who we are because we try to take control of this knowledge in our sin. It is when we submit to God, our Creator that we find definition. It is in hoping in God that we are purified.

Does this mean that we are justified by faith alone? No. I don't believe it, and perhaps my further readings of Romans will help me to clarify my statements. From what I'm getting at the moment, we are justified by the grace of God that is channeled by Faith, purifies us by Hope and brings us to Him in Love, the three things that will remain. It seems quite reasonable to me that if we are to gain eternal life, then we must become comprised of these three things which remain. We must devote ourselves to building our Faith and Hope and Love, and this does mean work. We are not justified by Faith alone, I think this much seems clear.