Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The flawed ikonography of Hallowe'en

The doorbell's just rung. A vampire, two sheet-ghosts and Lucifer himself have come to demand sweets. Quite why supernatural entities drawn from "O Whistle and I'll come to you, My Lad", a mythological conflation of tuberculosis and a warning against sexual promiscuity, and a personification of the infernal angelic being largely based on the Greek deity Pan have to do with a Christian festival, perhaps needs some explanation.

The Christian is always looking to the unseen, much to the scorn of the materialist empiricism of the current age. God, being supremely other, is clearly not a being that can ever be fully grasped by the mental processes of His Creation. Thus the Christian has to learn to reach something beyond the senses. We are fortunate that we have the saints to help draw us out of ourselves and point to the Divine.

The Christian world is full of ikonography, whether this be in the form of literal ikons written by experienced ikonographers, through the ikon of the sacred symbol or sacred action, the ikonography within Sacrament, the bishop and priest as ikon of Christ as servant and High Priest, or through the ikonographic presence of the saints. All ikons point to God. Ikons of the Lord Jesus, point not only to His humanity but to His Divinity. Ikons of Our Lady always have a hand pointing to her Son. The ikons of the saints have their focus away from them and to the Creator. They shine with the light of Tabor - the light that only comes from God. It is the job of the ikon to act as a window, albeit a dark glass, into the world of the unseeable.

Yet what happens when one removes or displaces God from the ikon?

Well, if one removes God from an ikon, then all that is left is a picture on wood, a person in funny robes, a wafer and a bit of wine. Just matter, empty and meaningless!

If one displaces God, then one ends up with some sense of the beyond but without God the result is confused conflations of legends and myths and distortions of reality. This makes things a little more interesting and also very dangerous.

Superstition arises from the displacement of God from an Ikon, or at least a misunderstanding of who He is. What we may know about God can only truly arise from the via negativa or from analogy and the Christian life is lived in the search for God, piecing together that which we know of Him as He is revealed in the ikonography of life. However, it is when we make false interpretations that our superstitions can arise. If we fail to say our prayers one night, will we have bad luck the next day?
If we pray to St Anthony, will our lost credit card turn up?

In "Oh Whistle and I'll come to you, my lad",  Professor Parkin gives his theory for the superstition of whistling for the wind:
 'Now, as to whistling for the wind, let me give you my theory about it. The laws which govern winds are really not at all perfectly known - to fisher-folk and such, of course, not known at all. A man or woman of eccentric habits, perhaps, or a stranger, is seen repeatedly on the beach at some unusual hour, and is heard whistling. Soon afterwards a violent wind rises; a man who could read the sky perfectly or who possessed a barometer could have foretold that it would. The simple people of a fishing-village have no barometers, and only a few rough rules for prophesying weather. What more natural than that the eccentric personage I postulated should be regarded as having raised the wind, or that he or she should clutch eagerly at the reputation of being able to do so? Now, take last night's wind: as it happens, I myself was whistling. I blew a whistle twice, and the wind seemed to come absolutely in answer to my call. If anyone had seen me - '
He illustrates the development of superstition as a confusion of correlation with cause, or in this case coincidence with cause. Yet, any event that occurs must correlate with its cause, so how does one demonstrate the cause of an effect is more than just correlation. Clearly one can only do so by trying to understand the relationship between the cause and the effect? Professor Parkin is confronted quite terrifyingly with the consequence of the blowing of the whistle.

Hallowe'en itself is an ikon which, to modern society, has had the image of God displaced. In a laregly more materialistic world, Hallowe'en seems to serve as lip-service to the existence of the supernatural. People remember the great old ghost stories and romanticise for a night or two about how brilliant it would be if they were actually true, gaining a shiver and a thrill in the process before returning to the material world where the dead stay dead.

This is so far removed from the Christian Hallowe'en which actually begins the feast of All Saints. The letter to the Hebrews speaks of us being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. In the Revelation to St John the Divine, there is the great multitude of saints and martyrs all crying out the praises to God, but further they seek to support us in our race to the Divine Presence. The prayers of the saints ascend to God in the heavenly thuribles. If one is truly thinking about what it means to be one of the Hallows, then one cannot get away from their tendency to point away from themselves to God Himself. The Angels too, who can be mistaken for God (as St John discovers when he tries to worship an angel in the Revelation) if they are truly the servants of God will point only to God. It is a sure sign of an agent of the infernal if that angel points to itself.

The Devil is not a pan-lookalike. He is far more subtle than that, but rather wants people to think of him as being the caricature that knocked at the door this evening so as to throw the naive off the scent of his wicked work. The only tool in his arsenal is lies which he is adept at wrapping neatly into a sizable packet of truth. Following the the true ikons of Hallowe'en will allow us to remain on the path to God by helping us spot the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Our relationship with God, which will be both personal as well as corporate within the Church, will develop more by ensuring that we use the ikons that He has set in the world around us. Christian festivals are Christian in their intent and meant for no other purpose.

Where is God in Hallowe'en?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spotting the Deacons

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis, Rochester on the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity 2012.
This was the text of one of my Canonical Examinations which I submitted to the Bishop. My Parish Priest thought it expedient to ask me to preach it here early in my Diaconate.

Other than here in this place, when was the last time you saw a deacon?

Serving food in a restaurant?

Behind the counter at the Post Office?

Helping you on with a jacket in Marks and Spencer’s?

 Perhaps you don’t recognise these people
                as being deacons,
                             yet in a very real sense they are.

What do you understand a deacon to be?




The modern idea of what a deacon is
                   seems to be that he is a trainee priest.

 He is ordained as a deacon for a year,
             learns his priestcraft,
                       and is then ordained priest.

 However, this doesn’t really do justice
                 to what a deacon really is.


 What the world understands as a deacon
             is very different from
                   how the Church sees the role.


The word comes from the Greek
           diakonos which translates as “servant”.

One of the earliest biblical uses of the word
          comes in the book of Esther
                   describing ministers of the King.

The word can rightly be applied to anyone,
           even you,
                   when you act as a servant to assist someone else.

Literally, diakonos means to throw oneself into motion:
        a command is issued and
                at once the servant scurries away to perform it.


We witness many diaconal acts within the pages of the Bible.

Most notably we see Our Blessed Lord
       washing His disciples’ feet[1].

 He speaks to them about serving one another
             and how a slave is not greater than the master.

But it is the King acting as the servant here.

There is much nobility in being a deacon!

However, it is St Luke’s account of the Acts of the Apostles
       that we find the beginnings of the deacon
                as an ordained minister.


Just think back to when the Church was really young.

More and more people are joining the Church daily,
       and this puts an awful lot of pressure
              on the Twelve Apostles
                    who are trying very hard to teach
                            and provide for the needs of their new flock.

Is it right that the ones
         who have spent their lives with Jesus,
                   listening to Him speak,
                            watching Him perform miracles,
                                  have to divert from sharing
              this wonderful teaching to deal with important,
                       but less specialised tasks?

The idea is clear: appoint people
        to perform the administration,
                 to throw themselves into motion
                     at the direction of the Apostles.


They choose seven men,
          Stephen and Phillip among them,
                    to act in this capacity.

What is very interesting is that
       they are not just appointed
            like picking a football team at school,
                but they are carefully selected
       and then the Apostles lay their hands upon them.

In Acts, this usually means that
          the Holy Spirit is at work making an important change.

Why are these men chosen?

St Luke tells us that the first deacons
         were men “
of honest report,
               full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.

These deacons are men of Spirit
          and wisdom as well as men of action.


Later on
        as the ministries of bishop, priest and deacon develop,
             St Paul writes to St Timothy,

                 “Likewise must the deacons be grave,
                        not double tongued,
                              not given to much wine,
                                not greedy of filthy lucre;

        Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

And let these also first be proved;
      then let them use the office of a deacon,
             being found blameless…

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife,
      ruling their children
                 and their own houses well.

For they that have used the office of a deacon well
         purchase to themselves a good degree,
              and great boldness in the faith
                  which is in Christ Jesus

 It is clear that God sets deacons apart for their service.

They may not all have the same gifts.

 St Stephen could preach
        and was called to die for his faith.

 St Phillip could also preach,
           baptise and explain the Gospels.

Baptising, preaching and reading the Gospels
     – these are things that deacons have been doing to this day.

       Baptism really needs to be performed
              within the Church community
                   and it is proper that only the priest
                        as Father of that community baptises.

A Deacon may baptise but only in an emergency.


Now it’s important not to get confused here.

There are several others in the New Testament,
       like Phoebe,
            who are described by the word diakonos.

Remember that the word simply means
     a servant or assistant.

In order to understand how the Church views deacons
         we have to look at how the Bible was interpreted.

 If we read the Early Church Fathers,
           we see that bishops seldom went far
                    without deacons.

Bishops and deacons often get mentioned in the same breath.

When the bishops found that they needed deputies,
         they created the priesthood
                   and gave the priests deacons to assist them.

According to the Apostolic Constitutions,
       a deacon is “
in all things unspotted,
           as the bishop himself is to be, only more active

We’re back to throwing ourselves into motion again!

So you see that these deacons are necessarily affiliated
        with bishops and priests.

 It is the job of the deacon to administer
         and to put into practice what he hears
                from the priest and the bishop.

 This is true even in the liturgy.

 In many of the old liturgies
          it is the deacon who tells you when
             to arise from prayer or that the Mass is ended
                  while the priest deals with more spiritual devotions.


 This is why it is a calling and why a deacon has to be ordained.

 Not everyone can be a deacon
           but only those whom God has called.

 St Ignatius of Antioch says,
let all reverence the deacons
                   as an appointment of Jesus Christ

While anyone can serve
     – indeed Jesus tells us that we must serve
           – not everyone is called to serve in the way
                    that a deacon serves.

A deacon may indeed become a priest after a year
       and possibly a bishop after that,
               but the priest and the bishop never stop being deacons
                     and no ordained minister stops being a layman!

Women can be deaconesses,
    but never deacons because the deacon acts
         as an icon of Christ the servant.


Do you remember why deacons
       came about in the first place?

 It was because the Church was growing so much
       that the Apostles needed help.

So the deacon is a sign of growth,
       and we should be glad when someone is ordained
                 to the diaconate. 

At such an ordination,
      we should pray for these men that they receive energy
         in order to put the word of God into practice,
              understanding that they might read
                  and preach the Gospel clearly and with reverence,
                       wisdom that they may know
                          how to administer their time in service,
                            and joy that they might find fulfilment in what is,
                                   after all, a hard task.

Callings are always hard work,
        but they are good work.


You might not think that you’re called to be a Deacon,
          but how are you being called to serve God?


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Christian Homeopathy: Diluting the Doctrine.

With the NHS suffering rather from the budget cuts and enforced expense slashing, one might be forgiven for seeking out alternative medicine. Such an alternative medicine is Homoeopathy.

Homoeopathy claims to work by the repeated dilution of a given substance in water or in alcohol which apparently increases its potency. Forgive me if I seem harsh, but I find this a somewhat ridiculous notion. How can repeated dilution make a substance stronger? The human body would hardly find any efficacy from something so dilute that it simply passes through the system affecting only a few cells before being expelled. I cannot imagine the effect being anything other than placebo.

The same is also very true of the Christian religion. There are two ways in which the same homoeopathic mentality enters Christianity.

First, consider the Roman Catholic decision to move midweek festivals to the following Sunday (e.g. Corpus Christi and Ascension Day). Why is this done? Well, if it's a Holy Day of Obligation then it is a sin for people to wilfully miss Church. Yet many people either cannot get to Mass on a Thursday due to the pressures of their work (which is hardly a problem of willfulness) or just cannot be bothered to go out on a weekday. Far better, then, to prevent people from missing their obligation by moving it from Midweek to Sunday.

Well it certainly looks reasonable, but there is still a problem. If one cannot be bothered to go to church on a Thursday, then  the Church has just demonstrated its sanctioning of not going to Church for a midweek. Suddenly it's okay to find a midweek Mass as unnecessary and unimportant, just as it is suddenly okay to eat meat on Friday.  Yes, it makes things easier for a Christian to live a weekday life, but it also makes weekdays more secular and less sacred. What has happened is that sanctity has been diluted out of the week. We are now allowed to be Christians only at the weekend.

Second, consider modern liturgies. If something is too hard for people to understand, then it seems quite reasonable to rephrase it into a language which everyone can understand. In a culture where things are learnt in soundbites, it seems to make perfect sense to reduce everything we believe into short pithy statements.

I really struggle with this and I mean really struggle. This is yet another situation in which the exploration of the Divine is diluted down and down into ever more "easy to understand" chunks and what is lost is any depth, any struggle and any engagement with a life that is immeasurably more immense than ours. Human life is a struggle. It is unfair; it is incomprehensible; it is confusing; it is exasperating, but it is ultimately a ray of God's Light piercing the gloom of an otherwise meaningless Eternity. Any expression of Christianity that seeks to boil it down to its essentials, or reduce it to its component parts misses the point as easily as homoeopaths do when it comes to healing the human body through quantities that the human body cannot even detect.

I am often asked to explain myself: why I am an Anglican Catholic; what a Deacon is; why I believe XYZ. It isn't easy, especially when the questioner is expecting a single word answer. I cannot explain the Christian faith in a few short sentences. It takes a full lifetime in order to grapple with what Christianity is saying. The Problem of Evil is an enormous problem that keeps many from believing in God. One has to understand this very clearly. I have answers, but they do not convince me wholeheartedly - this is where I must put my trust in God, after all, I really do know next to nothing.The PoE is a very good objection to the existence of God, but it is not a knock-down argument as some philosophers would have it be. This is why God calls us to be patient, because we cannot possibly explain ourselves in any way that would water down what we believe.

In the same way, we should not try to reduce what we believe to soundbites despite the temptation of the modern world to demand soundbites from us. The Apostle's Creed is only the starting point for an explanation, not a complete statement of the Faith. The same is true of the other two Creeds. We have to take time to give an answer to people who ask us who we are, and we should not apologise if this takes some time. We should of course try to make that answer as engaging and as interesting as possible. If they listen well, then perhaps we may have made that important step in making them more curious about who we are and what we do.

Diluting the faith to suit the impatient and the superficial is just not the way forward. It promotes further superficiality, reinforces a sense of impatience and does not engage with the complexity of real living and the true immensity of Immanuel. There is nothing alternative about the Christian Faith!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Calling the un-tied!

Homily preached at Eltham College on 5th and 12th October 2012 following the Ordination to the Diaconate.

My first homily to the school after my ordination as Deacon.

It’s that little voice again.

You, know the one.

The alarm clock has just rung
         and the little voice is telling you
                “stay in bed a little longer,
                         just a little longer.
                               You’ve got plenty of time.”

The calling of that little voice
            is very persuasive,
                     and so another five minutes in bed
                             seems a perfectly reasonable decision.

Of course five minutes easily become half an hour.

When you realise you’re late, you’re up like a shot.

You’ve gollopped down your Chocolate Cheerios,
             cleaned seven of your teeth,
                    thus giving the mirror a spray tan with Colgate
                          and shot out of the house faster than
                                       Prince Harry from the billiards room.

However, you’ve made it in to the College on time
          thus avoiding that disapproving scowl of the Senior Master
                   reserved especially for latecomers
                                and detesters of Shakespeare.

As you catch sight of yourself
          in the reflection on a window,
                   you notice to your horror
                          that you’ve forgotten your tie!

It goes without saying
          that you happen to bump into each and every member of staff,
                  each of whom questions you
                           about your lack of tie.

Before you are issued with a spare tie
        which looks as if Groundskeeper Willie has used it
               to tie up the compost heap to keep it from escaping,
                           an explanation is demanded of you. 

What then do you say?

 The lack of a tie always demands an explanation.


Listening to a call of one of those little voices in your head
         can make a major difference to your life.

The mind is a warehouse for the Butterfly effect.

Just listening to what those voices say
             can make the difference between
                    studying Chemistry at Oxford
                          and Economics at Warwick,
                                  or even prancing about the stage trying
                                            to impersonate the Rizzle Kicks.

 Some perfectly ordinary blokes
         even find themselves called to be Deacons
                     in the Anglican Catholic Church.



Does that mean the onset of madness, hearing voices?

 In some way, we all “hear” voices in our heads
                – little chattering things that give us ideas
                             and suggestions from the depths of our minds.

We sometimes find ourselves presented
            with strange impulses that seem to come from nowhere. 

“Go on, have a bacon sandwich.”

 “Go on, play five more minutes of Assassin’s Creed.”

“Go on, trip up Fred as he runs past.”

 “Go on, don’t buy Drake’s latest album,
          get One Direction’s instead because Harry looks fine.”

Some of these voices do actually give you
            good ideas and spur you on to greater things.

 “Why not try out for the first XV?”

“Why not Oxbridge?”

 “Why not ask for help with your chemistry homework?”

Indeed, many people have gone on
           to do great things because of listening to
                     some insistent impulse deep within them.

But! Other voices are less so.

 “Why not put off revision to the night before the exam?”

 “Why not stick your finger in the Bunsen burner?”

 “Why not get that tattoo of Harry Styles on your arm?”

 With all this chattering inside it is often difficult
          to separate the good voices from the bad voices,
                  especially when some voices are making you consider
                            some of the great choices in your life.

There’s no point in trying for Oxford
           if you know in your heart of hearts
                  you aren’t going to make the grades,
                      but how do you find out
                            what’s in your heart of hearts
                                in the first place?

 Likewise, if you know that Hockey is your game
         and not rugby,
                  trying out for the first XV might seem rather daft.

 Then again, it might be the best decision of your life!

You need time to consider what these voices are saying.


 There has to be careful listening,
          consideration of all the consequences
                   and whether this decision is right for you.

For the Christian,
            there is the added belief that God is calling you.

For Moses, the call comes
     in the form of a voice from a burning bush.
For the prophet Elijah it is a still, small voice.

 For the Prophet Samuel,
          there is a voice calling him in the middle of the night.

God’s voice will be one of the many
        that we hear in our lives
                  but it will not necessarily be a loud call.

It is highly unlikely that your mobile will ring
        and the voice of the Divine will
           bellow the answer down the phone.
             “Become a Deacon!”

The fact is that we are simply not likely to receive
           dramatic calls of Biblical proportions.

We are more likely to hear our call
         in human voices or find an internal sense
             of purpose or passion
                  that convinces us that we are meant to do something.

For the first Christians
       such as St Peter, St James and St John,
              the call comes from an itinerant Rabbi,
                       a teacher who was influences the world
        with common sense teaching and yet
                     suffers an agonising death on the cross for it.

St Benedict is called to transform peoples’ lives
          through monasticism and his rule is still used today.

 It is St Benedict that we have to thank
          for the system of schooling that we have today.

Blessed Theresa of Calcutta is called to feed the poor in India
                    and her work continues long after her death.

All of these receive what they perceive as a call from God. 

For each of them
      there is a long period of listening
            to the voices around them.


Like all of these folk,
          you too have decisions to make in your life
                     based on who you believe yourself to be.

You will need to take time and find space
            to listen to all the voices that you hear in your life.

The ideas that are good for you will persist.

These are the voices that are not satisfied
         with anything superficial
              but create a passion
                    or a nagging insistence
                         at the very heart of your being.

Your calling will be something
        that will both exhilarate you
               and frighten you at the same time,
                     but it will be something that will transform you
                               into the person you want to be.

Answering the call takes time,
       a good ear,  
             wise companions,
                  and much patience.

How exactly are you going to discern your calling?


Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Questionable God?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity.

 You make your way across the floor to the black chair. As you sit in it, sinking slowly into the upholstery, you feel the bright spotlight hot in your face. Through the light and out into the darkness, you can just about make out the face of your inquisitor. Name? Occupation? Your specialist subject?

What would your specialist subject be on Mastermind?


There are some people that thrive with having questions fired at them left, right and centre, but for most of us, it’s an ordeal. Think of those called to give evidence in law courts. While the media rejoices in making the courtroom dramatic and even glamorous, the truth is that it is not as fascinating as one might be led to believe. However, the witness must still answer every question put to him by both the prosecuting and defending counsels. Why is it such an ordeal? If we’re telling the truth, then surely there isn’t a problem. We just answer the questions honestly, and we are allowed to step down and leave.

Things, of course, are very different if you are not just the witness but rather the one on trial too. In this case, you are afraid that one wrong answer will send you to gaol. That’s a problem far worse than not knowing the principal currency of Vietnam at Mastermind. The whole interrogation becomes a deadly game between you and your accuser who is trying to trap you into convicting yourself. How much better if you were able to silence him?


These days we face a very similar problem from a more aggressive and anti-Christian society. Have you ever had someone ask you some difficult questions just in order to catch you out? “How can you believe in God. You can’t see Him?” “There’s no evidence for God, why do you still believe that rubbish?” “Aren’t you sexist for not letting women be priests?” and of course the biggie, “If there is a loving God, then why all this suffering in the world?”

St Peter may remind us to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. This is fine, but some of these questions have been argued by some very wise philosophers, so how on earth can we ordinary folk possibly answer them?


It’s clear that there are and always have been people out to discredit Our Lord’s teaching by trapping him into saying something that either is outright blasphemy or that shows him up to be a fool. They watch him like a hawks looking for some gap in his teaching so that they can swoop down and catch him out!
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
THE great commandment? You might as well ask to sum up someone’s entire life in one single word, to teach an entire law course in half an hour or fit an entire rose garden into a flowerpot.

This is not a genuine enquiry. You can tell simply by the way it’s asked that he is trying to force the Lord into saying something foolish. If Jesus were to pick just one of the Ten Commandments and proceed to justify His decision, then the Pharisees would say, “well, what about the other nine? Isn’t that important enough?” In fact, the Rabbis around Jesus are deeply divided as to which Commandments are greater and which are lesser. If Jesus were to answer one way or the other, then it is going to cause an almighty ruckus among the Jews, and Jesus would be caught for stirring trouble.

Jesus is not taken in for a moment. He does not launch like the Pharisees into some great speech into what makes a commandment great. He puts the Pharisees and Sadducees to silence by careful quoting of Scripture: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. This is Deuteronomy vi.5, one of the books of Moses revered by the Pharisees. But Our Lord doesn’t stop there! Without drawing breath or pausing so that the Rabbis can jump in and say another word, we have the second commandment. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. That’s Leviticus xix.18 Another book revered by the Pharisees. In one fell swoop Our Lord has not just answered the question, but given a great guiding principle for human life
Before they can even reply to this, Jesus turns the tables. He asks them a question from their very own scriptures, and they are stumped. They cannot answer.

How can we answer the big questions of Life? It seems that the people of this world want Christians to answer all the questions in one short sentence. It may not even be possible for Our Lord to give us a verbal answer to all the big questions in one short sentence. After all, the Lord Himself says, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” We do not even understand the language of our own reality to begin to understand the language of God’s knowledge.

That’s not to say that the Lord cannot give us an answer to the problem of Evil. It is the very Life, Suffering and Death of the Lord Jesus that answers the question but not in a way that leads to an earthly answer and His Death is the inexpressible, wordless, unutterable “No” of God to all things Evil and “Yes” of God to Humanity.

Yes, we may be occasionally be stumped by the questioning of those who hate Christianity. We must give the best answer that we can, but not allow ourselves to be pressured into thinking that because we can’t answer a question, our Faith is worthless. Quite the contrary, how can so great a faith be expressed in words alone?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Deaconed: a grammatical exercise.

Is "Deacon" really a verb, or should one always resort to the proper grammar of "making someone a Deacon"?

You can't go wrong with proper grammar unless you are communicating with those who do not understand proper grammar in the first place. However, I'd like to make a case that being Deaconed is at least a very spiritual proper grammar.

The root of the word Deacon is "kinesis" from which we get the word "kinetic". The word is based fundamentally on the idea of movement, being in motion, doing. Think back to the Early Church with Bishops being virtually inseparable from their Deacons. The Bishop, the spiritual father of the community bids something happen and the Deacon puts it into practice. The Deacon throws himself into motion to ensure that the work of the Church happens well and in good order at the direction of the Bishop and then to the Bishop's deputies who are now what we know as our priests. For the Church, the Diaconate represents the sense of purpose of the Church being put into action. As ikons of Christ the servant, Deacons demonstrate by their ordination the sanctity of God's work in the world.

The modern Church has practically lost its Diaconate by delegating its work to all and sundry. While many church workers are well trained and dedicated to their tasks, their lack of ordination belies the lack of sacramental sanctity, the Real Presence of God in the world. It's true that Readers, Pastoral Assistants, Evangelists and Communian Assistants et c do some marvellous work, and have their services of inauguration and installation, but these are not services of Sacrament. There is no indelible mark of Holy Order etched into their souls.

For many lay folk, this is a good thing. They may be able to do a Deacon's work, but they are called by God to live as Christians in the lay field. They perform their works of service to the greater glory of God. However, the ordination of a Deacon is about the Church and the Sacramental life of the Church. Deacons and Priests are given the title "Reverend" but this does not refer to the person but rather back to Christ who is represented in the Deacon and the Priest in the manner of an ikon. A church that loses its sense of sacrament quickly loses its sense of the Reality of Christ present within its community.

So, from a spiritual point of view, "to be Deaconed" makes much sense when one is given a Divine Mandate to become a verb for Christ. Thus "to Deacon" at Mass is also part of the grammar of the spirit when the Divine activity participates with human activity in bringing God and Man into a Mystical union. We shouldn't then be too quick to insist on good Grammar

On a personal note, I am very grateful to all those who have wished me well following my ordination last Saturday. I may have been on a long journey to get where I am now, but I rather feel myself to be at the beginning of a longer journey who knows where. However, now I have folk with whom to share much of this journey and I am grateful for their kindness.