Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blogday 2007

Youngfogey coined a rather useful term when describing the anniversary of setting up a blog, and 29th December 2007 marks this bloglet's second birthday!

So what did I say last blogday?
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.

Well, events have taken me away from the theology of the "Natural Sacraments" more's the pity. At the moment, I appear to be in some self-imposed exile from my parish celebrating only the Morning Office until the Mass is treated with some respect. It's a bit of a bind when the only other parishes within walking distance (and since I don't drive, this is necessary) are an Aff-Cath church where things are done decently but the theology dodgy, and a Roman Catholic Parish which seems to treat the Mass with about as much reverence as the parish I'm trying to leave.

So I end this blogyear in some kind of ecclesiastical limbo - certainly not a perfect arrangement, and I hope that this is going to be entirely temporary. Now that I receive communion on a much more sporadic basis, I believe I appreciate the spiritual nourishment better.

Whatever state the C of E may be in, I still maintain my links with Elmore Abbey - the only place where I've really felt spiritually uplifted in past years, and it's partly for them that I am loathe to leave the C of E. The Abbey has always represented a weak link between the C of E and the Roman Catholic Church. I find that I need them and on some level they need me, and I find that this is enough for me to remain in a church whose establishment is falling around my ears.

I seem to have spent my year building up my (lack of) understanding of Anglo-Papalism which gets mentioned every other post making me sound like the stuck record of a monomaniacal parrot. It's important because of the confused nature of the discipline. Every Anglo-Papalist is confused on some level and that's because the Church is a confusing place to which to belong. I now have friends like Marco Vervoorst trying to draw me into the Holy See, and others, like my friends from the Continuum trying to call me into a Continuum parish. It just shows what good friends they are, caring about me like that, and it is very much appreciated even if their attempts are not proving successful. However, I pray about the situation nightly, and despite my pressing for a decision, I still feel that I am told to wait for the path to become clear. Perhaps I must wait for the inevitable fragmentation of the C of E - that would make sense (at least to me). I have to be patient, and so must my friends. Intellectual arguments are not enough at the moment.

My Latin is passable, Greek even worse, and Hebrew infinitesimally better, but at least I've settled into the school which is providing spiritual stimulation of an intriguing kind. Having to defend your beliefs to young adults is very bracing and I heartily recommend it.

Thanks for reading over the past year. I hope that you will stay with me and pray with me for the Holy Estate of the Church of God, whatever state she's in.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Catholic Cartoonery

I found this wonderful blog, which I'll now append to my links on the side here.

I've already used this cartoon at my church. Considering that, at Midnight Mass, instead of the intercessions we had a poem about Father Christmas praying for help delivering the presents, I think it's applicable to both the Liberal wing of the Roman Catholic Church and the present mush of the C of E.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A splitting headache

San Joaquin has withdrawn from the Episcopal Church of the United States. Of course the media proclaims a split in the Anglican Church. On the other hand we have the Traditional Anglican Church seeking reunion with the Holy See and an end to nearly 500 years of separation. We seem to be reaching a time in history of a reshaping and remoulding of the Church, or a further fragmentation, and it is Anglicanism that is bearing the visible brunt of this.

Only within the Canterbury Communion can we find a church with a Catholic heritage and yet which deems heresies as being consonant with the faith. What can one reasonably do when the institution on which you have relied makes the wrong move? There seems to be only two things that can be done: stay or go.

Who stays?

  1. Those complicit in the heresy;

  2. Those who are elderly or infirm;
  3. Those who are too frightened or tired to undergo such upheaval;

  4. Those who intend to fight from within;

  5. Those who intend to honour a commitment despite the heresy.

Who goes?

  1. Those who want to send a clear signal that heresy is wrong;

  2. Those who feel that the integrity of the church has been irrevocably compromised;
  3. Those who wish to preserve the purity of the church;

  4. Those who cannot associate with heretics;
  5. Those who believe that the grass is greener on the other side.

These lists are neither exhaustive or exclusive, but merely representative of the feelings and thoughts of those whom I have met. There are deep passions blazing within the chest of the Anglo-Catholic and the Anglo-Papalist which only manifest themselves after too great an imbibing of port or the sight of a woman who appears to be wearing a dog collar, but maybe it's just a roll-necked jumper.

The main trouble is that the Bishops are constantly presenting us with choices, notably the preference of Schism over Heresy. When one side cries "schism", the other invariably cries "heresy" and the two sides get further apart.

What is clear from the Lord's teaching is that He will send his angels to separate wheat from tares. What is not so clear is how this separation wil take place and how the agents of this separation will be. From the Apocalypse we are aware that each Church has its angel, and it may possibly be that it is these guiding angels who will draw away the righteous from the payers of lip-service. However, we still do not know!

For me, it is important that members of the Anglican Continuum and Communion at least engage in some prayer together in an attempt to heal the rifts. I see in myself too great a desire to withdraw from those with whom I disagree. The temptation is always there to demonise and to allow the memories of others to become bitter in the soul. While Mrs Jefferts-Schori, Gene Robinson, Bishop Spong, and others may hold heretical beliefs - which they do when measured up to the Catholic Faith however much they try to justify their learning - they are still deserving of kind words, loving gestures, gentle discussions and holy prayers, not because of themselves but because of the God who desires to sit and eat with us.

The Benedictine Rule advocates the idea of excommunication - the setting apart of folk who have erred from the way.

Capit. XXVI

Si quis frater praesumpserit sine iussione abbatis fratri excommunicato quolibet modo se iungere aut loqui cum eo vel mandatum ei dirigere, similem sortiatur excommunicationis vindictam.

If any brother presumes without instruction from the Abbot in any way to associate with an excommunicated brother or to speak with him or direct a command to him, let him be issued with the same punishment of excommunication. [My translation]

In this, we see that there is a definite need for the separation to be distinct. The abbot must make sure that the offender is kept apart from the community, and that the community is protected from the damage caused by recalcitrants. However St Benedict makes it quite clear that the Abbot is still responsible for the excommunicated, and indeed that the excommunicated is still part of the community.

Capit. XVII

Omni sollicitudine curam gerat abbas circa delinquentes fratres, quia non est opus sanis medicus sed male habentibus (Matthew ix.12). Et ideo uti debet omni modo ut sapiens medicus, immittere senpectas, id est seniores sapientes fratres, qui quasi secrete consolentur fratrem fluctuantem et provocent ad humilitatis satisfactionem et consolentur eum ne abundantiori tristitia absorbeatur (II Corinthians ii.7), sed, sicut ait item apostolus, confirmetur in eo caritas (II Corinthians ii.8) et oretur pro eo ab omnibus...

With every solicitude, the Abbot must show concern about offending brothers, because they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. In in this way, as a wise physician, he must use all skill to send senpectae, that is, older and wiser brothers, who console the erring brother as if in secret, and guide him to a satisfation of humility and to console him lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow but as the Apostle also says that ye would confirm your love toward him and that all might pray for him ... [My translation interspersed with the bible references from the AV]

Dialogue must therefore continue across a schism, but only between the wiser and more senior. This need not be the best educated - indeed it may be preferable that this not be the case particularly with those filled with intellectual pride! It should include those whom the whole church would regard as living a holy and spiritual life.

Indeed it is the person of the Abbot who has the authority to inspect and adjust an issue of excommunication. It is therefore important that the Abbot himself should closely follow Benedictine principles as laid down in the Rule. In practice however, there has been many an Abbot go off the rails. Likewise, in this day and age, we see Bishops - sources of Unity - rely on the integrity of their own belief rather than the Faith of the Church and use their roles of unification to damage and rend the Church.

This is in part why I have developed into an Anglo-Papalist. In viewing the Pope as the Vicar of Christ following in the succession of St Peter, he is an object of unity in obedience to the Catholic Faith. He is also, I believe, the one who could heal the rift of the Reformation quite easily. As successor of Peter and keeper of the Keys, he is able to bind to himself branches which have become severed. As the Vicar of Christ, he can graft together that which has been torn apart for whatever reason. Apostolae Curae (whoever this is more problematic for) can easily be circumvented through such a binding - a Papal declaration of regularity conditional on communion with the Holy See. Whether it has been broken off at the Reformation or not, there is a temporal branch of ordination which links every Anglican Bishop, Priest and Deacon and which can be made to be valid in the eyes of Rome by binding that branch to the living branch of the Holy See, just as the Lord himself spoke about grafting branches onto Himself as the true vine.

I'm an idealist. I apologise. Indeed there are still many obstacles of doctrine and jurisdiction. It is not enough to say "Why can't we just all try to get along?" particularly if there is a wave of heretics muddying the waters. There must be a greater level of trust built up between the Holy See and the Anglican Continuum - both sides must realise in full the others' concerns and work at addressing those barriers together in love and prayer.

I'm afraid the Anglican Communion will never be able to enjoy such a relationship on her present course because she does not perceive that what she is raising are indeed almost insurmountable hurdles to reconciliation. But nonetheless, the Continuum must act, sending senpectae to this ailing body. The distance of excommunication must remain until the recalcitrants are brought back, but there must be this level of ongoing dialogue!

Excuse me while I wallow in my idealism!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Feast of the Nativity 2007

I often wonder how the Christ-child would have appeared in this day and age. Forgetting the details of our lives (something I'm good at) that would be different, can you imagine the Angel Gabriel declaring the message of the Annunciation to a teenage girl in an industrial estate in Birkenhead? A teenage pregnancy there would not be unusual, so the example would not exactly be of any great effect or produce great wonder. Imagine:

And there were security guards abiding in the malls, keeping watch over their flat-screen tellys by night, and the Angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, "@*£# off to the Sondheim Estate and there you'll find a kid in the dog's basket who has come to cheer you up, you miserable #*&$£5s!"

It's just so commonplace! So ordinary! The birth of a baby is important to families and friends but you don't cross town just to see the child born to a teenage mother who's probably given been put in that state following a binge in Bermondsey, however cute the baby, unless you're in social services.

What made those shepherds and those magi, travel to stop and stare at the simple sight of a young lady and a tiny baby in the oxen's trough in a stable?

Well, if you believe modern church thinkers (and it's often wise not to), it probably didn't happen. All this Nativity business is sheer literary window dressing on the part of the writers of Matthew's and Luke's Gospels, just to enhance the Lord's reputation.

Why the need to enhance the Lord's reputation? Surely the accounts of His years of ministry, his miracles, His death and resurrection, His teaching, His "wild claims" of being the Son of God, surely that spells it out quite adequately without needing a fabrication of the Nativity. Mark doesn't need the Nativity for his Gospel, and neither does John, the life of the Lord stands well enough without the stories of the baby in the manger. So why did Matthew and Luke feel the need to include these passages? Why did the Church feel that these parts of the Gospels were necessary? Why were they not edited out, as some modern folk think the Early Church was very good at?

I suppose the message of the Nativity means for me that people can react very differently to the very ordinary. Professor Dawkins would have seen the child in the manger, probably paid compliments to the mother and charitably handed over a five pound note to help the baby (he is, after all, a decent human being), but he would have seen nothing other than a rather pitiable state of humanity. He does not attribute any further significance because there is no scientific test for metaphysical significance. However, some see the significance in their science, others are told about the significance from strange agencies. The meaning is deeper than mere physicality: the ordinaryness of a mother and a new born baby forced to take shelter in a stable is just so human.

Yet we can easily see the Lord's humanity without the Nativity, so His ordinaryness is not dependent upon the circumstances of His birth. The Nativity tells us to look, and to keep looking for the Christ-child in our day and age, to see the significance of our humdrum and monotonous existence without the need for a man to point it out to us using miracles and teachings. We can find God in our lives if we look for Him, even if it gets difficult, confusing and a bit depressing. It's a bit like looking for one particular baby in a Middle Eastern town.

"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God..."

May you find the Christ-child this Christmas, and know His joy and peace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Away in an old orange crate found at the back of the cupboard

Homily preached at Eltham College on 10th and 11th December 2007.

What would you say was your most
embarrassing Christmas ever?

One of the greatest sources of seasonal embarrassmentof memories of injusticethat really curdles the memory when you tryand picture it,
the school nativity play!

Did you take part in one?

What role did you get?


According to Junior School custom
in allocating roles,
the most popular girl in the school
should be chosen to play Mary
and the boy least likely
to stick his finger up his nose
to play Joseph.

Then of course there are
the other roles to be fought for.

The Angel Gabriel will be given
to the one with the voice that can split granite

The other angels are going to be
those of you who have access to
a job lot of tinsel and wire coat hangers.

It’s no good telling mentioning
that there is no biblical record of angels
ever having wings,
you’ll just be ignored
and relegated to the cattle.

Then there are
the Three Kings/Wise Men/magi/whatever
from the East.

To be qualified for these roles,
you have to have parents willing
to sacrifice the best bedspread
to the ravages of glitter and glue.

Knowledge of the fact that, again,
nowhere in the Bible
does it ever mention three kings
means automatic disqualification
and a summary demotion
to second sheep on the right.

To be an innkeeper,
you have to be trustworthy enough
to say the line in the script and not say
“Yes, Mary and Joseph,
there’s plenty of room in here,”
thus giving the teachers a fit
trying to sort that one out.

And then there are other roles
– the ones which you’ve been hoping to avoid.

These days,
you’re not allowed to exclude any child
from being in the play.

Thus there are a plethora of
snowflakes, sheep, oxen and donkeys
consisting of those who aren’t allowed
for whatever reason to have a speaking part
– untrustworthy innkeepers
or biblically correct magi.

If you are one of these unfortunates,
then you are then forced to wear
some grotesque concoction of cereal box,
cotton wool and card,
despite assurances that it is a sheep,
looks more like a disastrous attempt
to splice genetically Shaun the Sheep
and the Coco Pops Monkey.

There are behind-the-scenes folk as well:
the cereal box geneticists responsible
for the sheep-monkey hybrids,
the providers of tired old dressing gowns,
and the housekeeping team
who has to mop up afterwards
– not a pleasant job if the angels
get over-excited.

It’s a lot of work for everyone!
So why do it?

Why does an ever-decreasing number
of Primary and infant schools
subject themselves and their students
to such an ordeal?


Somehow the parents think that it’s wonderful!

Despite all the naffness,
there is something
that draws a parent
out of Christmas shopping
to see their child in a Nativity Play.

It’s a fact that all this dressing up
and acting actually makes a Christmas
for a parent whether or not
they actually believe in the story
that is being told by their children.

They see their children
going through the same traditions,
the same story,
the same dressing-gowns and tinsel
as they did when they were that age.

It may not mean much to you,
but to a parent,
it is a sign that their child is playing
an active role in making Christmas
a special time of year
not just for their family,
but to the community of the school.

what happens to a child’s participation
in Christmas when it outgrows Nativity Plays?

How do you participate?


If you’re a chorister,
then your role is clear.

You are doomed to spend November
learning carol after carol
and tediously jolly bits of tinkly music
insipidly arranged by John Rutter
after a quick buck.

By December 26th,
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
makes you want tell those herald angels
to go away in no uncertain terms.

But, however many times you sing it,
there may be just one time
that you make someone’s Christmas.
You’ve been through Christmas
at least eleven times in your lives,
and there’s a chance that you may find it all
a bit run-of-the-mill.

When Christmas day arrives,
what more to it is there beyond
the wrapping paper,
the new Wii golf game, the latest gore-ridden murder on Eastenders
the over-eating and resultant indigestion,
and forgetting to listen to the Queen.

Isn’t it just another day of the year
albeit a day when it doesn’t actually snow?

Well, this surely depends on what you make of it.

Is Christmas a special time of year for you?

It is only a time different from
the other days that just blur into one big mass of
school books,
chapel addresses,
and tucked-in shirts
if we work to make it so!

This is why we have Advent to help us
prepare for Christmas.

If you’re a Christian,
then Advent offers you a time to reflect
on the meaning of the little baby
born in a manger who grows up
to save the world.

It offers you a chance to engage
with a God who not only lives
but seeks to live among us.

If you’re not a Christian,
then you have to find out the meaning
of Christmas for yourself.

It offers you the opportunity to go out
and give of your time
and abilities to others,
to make their Christmas more enjoyable.

It’s down to you, then,
to figure out the point of it all.

Either way,
you have a role to play
in making Christmas more special for yourself,
your family and your community
- preferably not in that order.

The question is: what is that role?

Well, only you can answer that one!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Homosexualism and Holiness

The debate rages within the Anglican Church about the acceptance of practising homosexual priests and my friends on the Continuum blog continue to elucidate the orthodox line about how the issues of the female "priesthood" and acceptance of homosexuality are in fact the same thing. They are both concerned with the corruption of the Natural Order.

The main trait of Anglicanism seems to be what the Young Fogey calls Tolerant Conservatism, and I wonder just how well that is being brought to bear in this argument which is turning out to be quite bitter. Archbishop Akinola seems to be the proponent of Conservatism, and Dr Jefferts-Schori claims to be "tolerant". It seems clear to me that Dr Jefferts-Schori is certainly not conservative (nor is she especially tolerant, but then what did you expect?), and Archbishop Akinola certainly not tolerant. Both, in my honest opinion, have attitudes which are quite repugnant to the word of God.

I cannot accept that it is any way loving for an Archbishop not to shake the hand of a homosexual just because he is a homosexual. Christ ate with sinners. He would eat with me, with Hitler, with Mother Theresa, Gene Robinson, Akinola and Mrs Jefferts-Schori preferring not one of us above the other, all this despite our vileness. Yet clearly we have to respond to His reaching out to us for the Grace to be efficacious, and this means complicity with the rule of His Kingdom that lies within us. The Kingdom within Robinson and Mrs Jefferts-Schori seems very much like the British idea of Constitutional Monarchy in which the Queen is the nominal head, but the realm run by bureaucrats and politicians geared more to pleasing the people rather than running a healthy country. That's true of all of us, but only the leaders of the extremes in this matter are exhibiting this most clearly.

For Akinola, he should look and see what would happen if the roles were reversed. What if the Natural Law was homosexual, and he remaining firmly heterosexual? What then?

Perhaps Akinola needs to walk a mile in Dr. Jeffrey John's shoes. He, if you remember, is the homosexual Dean of St Albans who maintains a celibate relationship with another man, and who had to withdraw from the race for Bishop of Reading. While the ramifications of Dr John's relationship are dangerous and contrary to Divine Ordinance, I believe that Akinola needs to look at the situation like a doctor examines a tumour and see where the malignancy lies, not shunt the patient straight to the hospice. We should be trusting our bishops to behave like spiritual physicians as St Benedict says with skill, firmness, love, patience and complete orthodoxy.

It must be desperately hard for homosexuals who are, after all, as human as every other sinner. The human being was created to be loved, and that is precisely what all of us crave, except everything is skewed by Original Sin, and thus do not recognise that at the heart of this yearning is that of wanting to be loved by God. Most of us feel that strange sensation that occurs when we see someone utterly desirable, but we can't pinpoint what it is about them that we desire. That desire can burn and burn unless it is acted upon, but the question remains - how?

This desire can be utterly selfish - a lust, a desire to make the object do what we want and be powerless to exercise any of their desires in the matter. The trouble is that this lust comes clothed in much more acceptable terms. The lust is augmented by a desire to please, to protect, to comfort the object. There is no desire to hurt or to harm, only desire for what is holy and good, but it still comes tainted with this lust which offsets the balance and threatens to take away the humanity of the other.

This is if the desire is unrequited, so imagine the joy when the object feels exactly the same way about us! It is therefore quite reasonable to think that it is meant to be, that there is some Divine approval for the end of this deep-seated lonliness.

But God, while blessing the love, does not approve when it becomes the excuse for sex outside of marriage.

Yes, it seems evilly unfair, and I myself struggle to believe that there is no way that homosexuals can in anyway express their love for each other in a physical sense. However, the Natural Law is quite clear, the Holy Scripture is quite clear, the Holy Tradition of the Church is quite clear, homosexuality is not physically expressible.

Why? I used the phrase in my previous post below: sexuality is the beginning of life for someone else. As Fr Robert Hart kindly pointed out to me, there is no way that there can exist a love that is both holy and erotic (in the proper sense of the word) without there being a sexual dimension, and a sexual dimension is necessarily geared to beginning a life. That's what it is there for. Thus there is no sexuality-free version of romantic love.

This doesn't address the passion within each one of those unable to express themselves physically. I believe that it is to these individuals that a great commission has been given, namely to find new expressions of love in holiness. Since so many people of this orientation are gifted with new visions, artistic skills, sensitivity and creativity, surely they have been invited to a great and wonderful calling to find ways of expressing love beyond the confines of human physicality and yet within the Divine Ordinance.

As for the Anglican Church, well, parts of her continue daily to leave the path of Tolerant Conservatism, i.e. keeping faithful to the Catholic Faith yet bearing in love the humanity of others. But there is a true and faithful remnant both in the C of E but mainly in the Continuum where the stance is made clear. Is that stance made lovingly? Perceptably so?

With thanks to Fr Robert Hart and Ed Pacht from the Continuum.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Personal Patristics

Found this little piece of silliness.

Which Church Father are you?

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Of course, I am(!) How silly of me!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

An orthodox apology.

I have to make an apology to Alana Asby Roberts who very kindly commented on my post about excellence in worship and who asked me a few questions about my experience of the Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Now that life is leaving me alone for five minutes, I shall answer her here in the main blog in the hope that she is able to read it without hunting for it among the comments.

I have to honestly answer that my experience with the Eastern Orthodox is limited to the musical and the theological. While there are Orthodox Churches in Blighty, they don't appear to have any parishes near me, but then I'm not a driver so that has limited my vision. Of course what marks me out among Anglicans is my view of the Holy Father in Rome as the Successor of St Peter and the Vicar of Christ.

I have a great love of the Orthodox Tradition and applaud the fact that they do have the excellence in worship that is being torn out from Faddish-Anglicanism. One only has to just read through the Liturgy of St James with that call of "Sigesato pasa sarx..." by the Deacon to know that the whole Mass is devoted to the heavenly comes into contact with the earthly. I believe that the old Anglo-Papalists contemporary with Fr. Patten were able to bring that same electricity into our humdrum existence. Both Orthodoxy and Anglicanism have unique musical schemes centred around their liturgy, something which the Roman Catholics have sorely lacked even in recent years.

From the point of view of Christian Unity: if it is possible for the Eastern Orthodox Churches to regain communion with the Holy See and keep their unique identity then it is, in theory at least, possible with the Anglicans who have remained true to Holy Tradition. I do agree that the unity which Anglo-Papalists have been praying for may only be possible because of the Orthodox Church. There would be nothing to lose and all to gain there! I pray that Orthodox Catholicism would become complete once again, and may it start by mutual oecumenism of the dynamic sort.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The oldest thirty-something in town.

As I watch my hairline sweep backwards across my head as if it were mortally afraid of my nose, and see my students ask that dreaded question "Who?" when I mention Wilson, Keppel and Betty, I begin to see something of the love affair that the world has with the young.

The epithet beauty is almost exclusive to the young, and there is a good reason. We watch their vitality, freshness, newness, and see our old ideas beget new thoughts in their heads. In each young man and woman there is a power and a potentiality that we find frightening.

It's easy for us to be filled with twinges of regret and envious loathing as they remind us of the southward drift of the stomach and the stiffening of the joints that result in pistol shots emanating from under the cassock every time we genuflect.

The love affair with the young is vicarious in nature, we can live our hopes and dreams through our sons and daughters and yet we can forget that they are people in themselves. None more so is this evident with the sexualising of the young by a desperate society trying to stave off the ravages of time with more and more impossibly handsome young men and women. Society has forgotten that sexuality is the beginning of life for someone else: it is not something for the individual to possess, not a pleasure to indulge in, not for ourselves as a pastime.

This attraction that exists is a desire to possess and to live one's life over again, trying to mend all those faults that we have incurred, trying to find pleasures that we have now lost. I see so many children cleverer than I am/was, and it's a shocker to see that the intellect that I was once proud to possess eclipsed by my students. Do I regret it?

No. Not one bit. It is sobering, but "at the end of the game, all the pieces have to go back in the box" as John Ortberg says. So it is pointless to dwell on past glories. We have to be prepared for this, and allow these youngsters to play their game - use their time and chance to make this world better. To steal time from them is vanity and a form of violation. Nonetheless, we do have a duty to help them avoid the pitfalls that caught us, to help them exercise and train their skills and encourage them into thinking new thoughts built upon the foundations of the old.

My only hope is that they are shown that true life is not something that can be taken apart and analysed, but rather a God-given gift given to each one of us to do with what we will, and that also comes with responsibilities and duties, for they too will reach this stage with half a life lived and wonder, as I do, "where has it all gone?"

What about for us whose life is half lived?

Well, there is still the other half to go...