Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blogday 2013: Disposal and the Disposer

Today, it being the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas is also St Thomas Becket's feast day on which we remember his martyrdom at the hands of the knights in Canterbury Cathedral. It also happens to be the 8th Blogday of this little blogling.

I had no idea that this little blog would still be going after eight years. So many things have a short life expectancy these days. We do live in a disposable society in which things are readily and rapidly got rid of when they have served their purpose. For Henry the Second, it was his legendary offhand remark that led to the disposal of the Martyr St Thomas. It seems that even lives can be seen to be disposable to human whim.

Folk of a certain age will remember the hymn "Disposer Supreme and Judge of the Earth"and we see very clearly that the word "to dispose" has two different meanings. We still say that a man has all the resources at his disposal, meaning that he has the pick-and-choose of what to use to accomplish a given task. Yet a disposable camera is designed to be disposed of - thrown away. St Thomas shows us that there is a further nuance to the word suggesting that the thing to be disposed of is deeply undesirable, like a disposable nappy.

The ACC does have the lease of Conquest House, the place where the knights who murdered St Thomas spent the afternoon before they did their disposal. It's a fascinating place and worth visiting for the architecture alone, though the refectory and the Church Shop are well worth a visit in themselves. This is how we have been disposed to use the place and we are very well aware of its place in British History.

So how is God a disposer? St Paul reminds us,
"...Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known , endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, " Romans ix.20-23
God clearly not only has the power to do with us what He will, He also has the right to do with us what He will. That's not to say that He does actually will anyone to be fitted to destruction. After all, as St Paul says to St Timothy,
" I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved , and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (I Timothy ii.1-6)
God does not treat mankind like things to be thrown away. No-one is destined for Hell, though if anyone ends up there, it is of their own choice. St Paul is making the point that God has the whole universe at His disposal for the simple reason that He creates it all out of nothing. It's His by right and this includes our lives.

This frightens so many people because they want to be in total control of their lives. The Christian knows full well that he just does not have that level of freedom. His life may never go the way that he chooses and often there is difficulty and struggle involved. What deflects a man from his choice? Aside from the will of God, there is the will of man and the will of the Devil too. Two of these wills are in conflict and the third, the will of man, vacillates between the two to the extent that one cannot separate the good from the bad. This makes the fact that we are not saved by our own merits a VERY good thing!

God disposes us to be what He created. The devil, in his spite, outrage and sheer bloody-mindedness wants us disposed of to Gehenna (the Biblical scrapheap - putting it politely). All these forces make the actual job of living very hard at times. The Church always seems to be struggling uphill and many of us feel like Sisyphus. We have two things in our favour. First, we exist. Second, God wants us to exist. In that sense, the victory is quite clear, for nothing can upset the Devil more than something existing in the first place, because existence is the fundamental quality of God. This demonstrates quite clearly how insane the Devil really is; he hates the very fact that he exists, mainly because he does not want his existence to depend on God.

The trouble is, how often do we actually agree with the Devil?

The fact of the matter is that, although the wills of God, the Devil and Man, are very much at odds with each other, only God has the complete control over how things go. The universe holds no surprise for Him, only delight.

It's fair to say that I am aware that I am not in complete control of my life. That's actually been very comforting. If I'd had my way, I know for a fact I'd be deeply unhappy now.

Speaking on the religious front, I did not join the ACC to become a priest: I joined because I wanted ( to continue) to be a Catholic Christian. Yet, my calling to be a priest has been recognised and I find myself saying Mass and with a future distributing the other sacraments proper to my condition. This is an unexpected privilege which also comes with the concomitant costs. For St Thomas Becket, the cost was nothing less than a headsplittingly painful death. But with God, not even Death has control of how things work out and our strong belief is the St Thomas Becket is with God in Heaven.

I do not find myself in a comfortable position in the ACC because the ACC has a precarious existence, like a delicate flower in the wind. It will be God's good grace that helps us continue at His disposal. We trust Him even though things look a little dark around the edges sometimes. However, I am content to let the Disposer do the disposing - that's not to say I'm not nervous of the prospect. If God were tame, He would not be God.

I am immensely thankful for this year and for all the exciting and wonderful things that have happened. Next year, if my plans meet with Divine approval, will have some truly wonderful points (particularly midyear). If my plans do not meet with Divine approval, well, who knows? Here's to the ninth year of blogging! God bless you all, my tenacious readers!

Christmas 2013: What shall we call Him?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis, Rochester, on Christmas Eve (after sunset).

Unto us a child is born,

but what shall we call the baby?

We think of the couple looking lovingly

at their newborn daughter,

all asleep and pink in her crib,

 tired out by her struggle to come into the world,

 now content with a tummy full of milk

– a beautiful sight.

Then we wonder

at what must be going through their minds

when they call this little scrap of joy,

Maud Hildebrand.

There are some dreadful baby names out there.

Most, however, are a matter of taste!

But what do we call the baby lying in the manger,

swaddled tightly,

surrounded by straw, oxen,

an anxious Joseph

and an exhausted Mary?

What is His name?


Should we call Him Joseph?

The name “Joseph” means “God shall increase.”

We read in Isaiah that

“Of the increase of his government and peace

there shall be no end,

upon the throne of David,

and upon his kingdom,

to order it, and to establish it

with judgment and with justice

from henceforth even for ever.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

 But His name is not Joseph.

There may be a tradition

of naming the baby after his father,

but Joseph knows that he

is not the father of this child.

This Child may have the lineage of David,

and have the title of King,

but He has not come here on Earth to be King.

St Joseph is a sign that points to this baby,

but Joseph is not the baby’s name.


Should we call Him Mary?

Some good Catholic families do name their boys after Our Lady.

Mary is the Greek form of Miriam

which is Egyptian and not Hebrew in origin.

It means “beloved”.

What could be better said of this baby?

But then every baby should be beloved of someone.

Every little one deserves to be called Mary

regardless of sex.

Too many are not beloved,

and the little baby in the manger knows that.

It is His presence

that will ensure that every single baby who ever was

 will have love shown to them

by the greatest Being in existence.

If not a sparrow falls without His knowledge,

then no child of man

will be forgotten by His love.

The King of Heaven cares for all His children.

However, Mary,

 Our Lady,

 only gets her queenship

through this baby in the manger.

 Our Lady is a sign that points to the baby,

but Mary is not the baby's name.


Should we call Him John?

“John” means “God gives”

and God has indeed given this baby to us.

God has also given us this child’s cousin,

St John Baptist,

at most 9 months earlier.

He will seek out God in the wilderness

and call people to repentance.

 He will give them the baptism of water

for the remission of their sins;

he will give them the new start that they need.

However, he cannot baptise them with the Holy Spirit

and thus give them regeneration,

the second birth necessary for every Christian Soul

on its route back to God.

His little cousin asleep in the hay

will do exactly this

and open the pathway for souls to be saved.

John cannot.

He will call out for the paths

to be made straight for this baby;

he will decrease so that this baby will increase.

St John is a sign that points to the baby,

but John is not the baby's name.


So what shall we call this baby?

You will say, “Jesus!

It has to be Jesus!

How could it be anything else?”

Yet Isaiah would have Him called

Immanuel –God with us.

Jeremiah would have him called

Adonai Tsideknu 

 the Lord Our Righteousness.

The average Jew watching this miracle

would call the baby

Yeshua Ben Yosef

– Joshua, Son of Joseph.

Joshua, which is the same as Jesus,

means “God saves”.

If we look at this baby sleeping in the manger,

all of these names apply.

This baby will grow up

to be our righteousness

for only in Him will we become truly righteous.

This baby is the Incarnate God,

born to be with us,

born to reconcile Man to God.

This baby is the man

who will be crucified for us

and thus save us from Death itself.


So here He is.

Son of Mary, Son of God.

What do you think is the baby's name?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: Epilogue

Ero Cras
Tomorrow I shall be
Rex Gentium
Clavis David
Radix Jesse

No doubt many people will have seen this famous liturgical Latin acrostic formed by the seven antiphons. "Tomorrow I shall be."

This is the vital thing about our sacraments. They bring us into direct contact with God's grace. The effect truly that which they intend to effect because God in Christ has effected them so that He can be in direct contact with us. He becomes that which we see with our eyes, which we look upon and which we handle with our hands. This is the world of life, and tomorrow He fulfills His promise. He shall be with us in full.

Yet, each of us must face our own "Ero Cras". We have to look at ourselves in our imperfection, see all that we actively and viscerally hate about ourselves as being symptoms of not being who God wants us to be and have the confidence to say "Ero Cras" - "Tomorrow, I shall be." Our sins drag us down and make that phrase choke in our throats. This is why we have been given grace, so that we may not only be, but that we may be perfect even as God is perfect. In Him we shall be, and we shall be content and joyful.

Tomorrow, He will be with us.

Tomorrow, we shall be!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: 7 O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, King and our bearer of the Law, Hope of the people and their Saviour: Come for to save us, Lord, Our God!
Behold , a virgin shall be with child , and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
At every Mass, we see the earthly life of our Lord played out. At the opening of the Mass, the paten and the chalice is covered, as is the celebrant's head which are subsequently uncovered as the revelation of Emmanuel unfolds. We hear His word revealed to us, first on the South Side for the Hebrews, then on the North side for the Gentiles. We see His double nature in the mixed water and wine at the offertory. We see His body laid upon the Cross of the Altar.We see it broken and laid in the tomb of the paten. We see the fragment in the Cup uniting Man with God through His being and His One True Sacrifice to which every Mass is inextricably, mysteriously and really linked.

God is truly with us in the Mass. Indeed, every Mass brings us back to Christmass Day as well as the great Triduum. Our weekly Eucharistic Apotheosis may seem quite ordinary in comparison with the seasonal festivities, but we can be sure that we never celebrate a Mass without Emmanuel.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: 6 O Rex Gentium

O King of the peoples for whom they yearn, and stone of the Corner who makest both one: Come and save Man whom thou formedst of clay.
He answered and said , A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash : and I went and washed , and I received sight . (St John ix.11)
Wet clay is very malleable and can be moulded into the shape designed by the sculptor. The water is that very thing the makes sculpture and pottery possible. Without it, the clay is brittle and crumbly and useless; its imperfections cannot be filled or smoothed away.

The Lord Jesus enters the waters of Baptism to offer the living water that springs up within us, so that we might become wet clay for our perfection at His hands. This is why Baptism is one of the two sacraments needed for our salvation. There are legends of the Christ-Child making little birds out of mud which promptly gain life and fly away. That may only be legend, but it has the ring of truth when we see men and women receive health and wholeness at His very hands.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: 5 O Oriens

O Morning Star, splendour of Eternal light and Sun of Righteousness: come and illumine those sitting in darkness and the shadow of Death.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (St James v.14)
In the midst of life we are in death. We often find ourselves ill, or see folk around us ill and desperate for some relief from their suffering. The focus of one in pain often narrows until all that can be seen is that pain surrounded by darkness and nothing else. It takes a real effort to look outside the pain of living. We can either face the darkness or wait for the dawn.

The dawn does rise indeed. For with the anointing of oil comes the anointing with the flame of the spirit heralding the dawn of the life in Christ. While we will remain in pain, we share in the pain of Our Lord upon the cross. His body had already been anointed for burial. Our anointing unites our bodily pain with His. It probably will not kill the pain, indeed we may get worse or die, but if we suffer with Christ, if we die with Christ, we will be united with Christ in His Resurrection.

Our Lord is born in order to die, even as we must die. However, just as the sun sets upon the baby in the manger at His first coming, so will the day dawn at His second.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: 4 O Clavis David

 O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel; who openest, and none closeth; who closest and none openeth: Come and draw out the convict from the prison-house who sitteth in darkness and the shadow of Death.  
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (St Matthew xvi.19)

We can find ourselves locked and bound to this life if we choose the yoke of this life. St Paul reminds us, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey ; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Romans vi.16) Man chooses whom to obey, puts his head into the yoke and locks himself in, dropping the key in the process.

Until there is another who has not put his head in the same yoke, no-one can pick up this key. It remains on the floor, just out of reach. Yet, in Bethlehem, in the City of David, there is one born whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light and who will pick up that key and give it to those who are willing to yoke themselves to a better master, the True Master.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: 3 O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, Who standest as a sign of the people, towards Whom the kings hold their tongues, Whom the Gentiles shall implore : Come for to deliver us, now do not delay!  
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews ii.17)
The Tree of Life branches spans the entirety of human history. Its roots lie firm in the earth of Israel, in the lineage of David, the priesthood of the Levites, in the testament of the Hebrews. At the birth of Christ, it breaks free from the soil and bursts into bloom in the world. The grace of God is dispensed to all humanity in the sap of this tree, from root to tip. As time unfolds so do the leaves of this tree to give life to all mankind from the Creator.

Our Lord Jesus at His birth is come to perfect the priesthood that it may grow, and through the ordination of sinful and fallible men, may give to all people the nourishment and comfort that they need to live life. This is the grain of mustard seed which accommodates and gives homes to all who seek shelter and rest. For the Christ-Child, shelter and rest comes from a cold, hard rocky cave serving as a stable. Yet it is upon rock that He will build His Church,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: 2 O Adonai

O Adonai, and Guide of the house of Israel, who appearedst to Moses in the flame of the Burning Bush, and to him on Sinai gave the Law: Come for to release us with arm outstretched.  
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. (Acts ii.3)
There must be something to provide warmth on the hillside at night for the shepherds watching their sheep. A small open fire perhaps - safely and carefully made, just so the shepherds can keep the chill off. It must be as if that fire has gone out of control before they realise the glory of God is shining all around them. Then they see the burning figure of the Angel announcing unto them tidings of great joy! Watch as they scurry off, praising God and seeking the Christ-Child!

There must be something to provide some heat for breakfast on the morning of Pentecost Day. A small fire to cook a small meal  perhaps - safely and carefully made, just so the Apostles can have a little something warm to eat. It must be as if that fire has gone out of control before they realise the Spirit of God is shining upon them. Then they know the burning presence of the Holy Ghost empowering them to announce unto the World tidings of great joy! Watch as they scurry off, praising God and preaching the Christ-Child!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sacraments and Sapientia: 1 O Sapientia

O Wisdom, who from the mouth of the Most High proceedest, spanning from one end as far as the other, firmly and sweetly setting forth all things: come for to teach us the way of prudence.  
"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." (Proverbs xxxi.26)
 So speaks King Lemuel's mother. Wisdom is something which the good wife possesses and something to be looked for when a man is looking for a lifelong companion and lover. Naturally the same must surely be true for a woman looking for her husband. In the Proverbs Wisdom is personified as the righteous woman who cries out for men to hear her ways and be happy, so it seems a marriage literally made in Heaven when a couple find in each other the radiance of the Wisdom of God to delight their eyes.

 Wisdom bids us, "Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled " (Proverbs ix.5). At the Wedding in Cana, the Lord Himself provides the best wine for the married couple. The wine our Lord gives is good to drink and bestows happiness and joy at a wonderful celebration. The presence of God in a marriage completes that very marriage, and sanctifies it so that the biological humans and metaphysical persons are in harmony with the Universe.

We see this wisdom in the Holy Family in which two people exemplifying purity, chastity and charity bring into the World the Saviour of mankind. The child is born in simplicity and humility, with nothing but swaddling bands, a trough for a bed, but the love of a wise couple. The foolishness of God is truly wiser than Man's wisdom.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Judging Advent

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Third Sunday in Advent 2013

You've come last in the Art Show.

Your beautiful picture of
Rochester Castle by sunset
 has been deemed "rubbish"
by Sir Alex Bouffant,
the famous art critic.

Of course,
you're naturally enraged that your picture
which has taken you 5 years to do
including hours and hours
of intensive art courses
using lots of very skilled techniques
costing you well over £6,000
has been judged to be mediocre at best.

So enraged are you
that you make the decision
to sue Sir Alex for slander.

Would an English Judge take such a case seriously?


How many judgements are being made
 in this scenario?
there is the judgement of Sir Alex
that your painting was worthless.

There is also the impending judgement
of the Civil Judge
assuming that your case goes all the way
to the courts in the first place.

What about your decision to sue?

Isn’t that a judgement too?


It's quite clear that your decision to sue
is perhaps ill-advised at best.

It was probably based on hurt pride
more than anything
more obvious.

If Sir Alex is already known for his artistic judgment,
then it’s very likely that, actually,
he knows more about what makes good art
than someone who has only studied it,
albeit intently, for 5 years.

The judgement to sue is not a sound judgement:
it is not in possession of all the facts.

St Paul has been criticised by the Corinthians
for being unfaithful to the Gospel.

They claim that he does not speak with the authority of Christ.

Perhaps they are pointing to
 his past when he persecuted Christians.

Perhaps they are concerned about
his views on whether Jews and Gentiles
can both be Christians.

Perhaps they struggle with
the criticisms he has made about their lifestyle.

St Paul makes criticisms of the Corinthians.

The Corinthians make criticisms of St Paul.

This does sound like the beginnings
of parts of the church breaking away
from each other.

Arguments lead to
squabbles which lead to
an unhealthy silence which leads to
schism, fracture and divorce.

St Paul’s reaction
to the Corinthians’ accusation
is very clear.

“But with me it is a very small thing
that I should be judged of you,
or of man's judgment:
yea, I judge not mine own self.

For I know nothing by myself;
yet am I not hereby justified:
but he that judgeth me is the Lord.”

St Paul is saying very clearly that
no man is really in any position to judge another
without first knowing
all the facts
beyond reasonable doubt.

When St Paul uses the word “judge” here,
he is using a very unique Greek word
which implies that the judgement is incomplete
– it’s the sort of judgement
you might find in a preliminary hearing,
 not a judgement
on which you could get convicted.

Of course St Paul is quite right to say that
 it is a small thing to be judged by the Corinthians
or by anyone else,
and he is quite right to say
that he can’t even judge himself,
because the results of
the preliminary hearing
are not meant to be conclusive.

St Paul is joined in this idea
by St John who says
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God,
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”

We heard that only a few weeks ago!

As far as St Paul and St John are concerned,
we are not finished,
we are not yet what we should be.


We believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ
will come again to judge the living and the dead.

In what sense will the Lord judge us?

We have only to look at His life
to see how Our Lord operates.

The blind receive their sight,
and the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed,
and the deaf hear,
the dead are raised up,
and the poor have the gospel
preached to them.
 And blessed is he,
whosoever shall not be
offended in Him.

His miracles are very clear signs to us
that Our Lord Jesus Christ
is committed to our perfection.

“Be ye therefore perfect,”
 He says,
 “even as your Father which is in heaven
is perfect.”

We know full well that
we cannot be perfect at all
of ourselves.

St Paul and St John are both aware
that they don’t even know how
to begin to be perfect.

St Paul is very willing to admit
that he is still trying to work out his salvation
with fear and trembling.

Perfection can only come from
the One who created us and is,
in some very clear sense,
still creating us
albeit with our co-operation.

 We can choose to be imperfect
by choosing that which
God does not want of us.

 This is why every human being
is called to repentance,
 so that they can turn to God and allow Him
to make them perfect.

St Peter tells us,
 “Repent, and be baptized every one of you
in the name of Jesus Christ
for the remission of sins,
and ye shall receive
the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The unrepentant see their own idea of perfection
and believe that their own studies of life
make them competent to judge their lives
to be perfect according to their will.


We are indeed the artwork of God.

We owe our being to Him and our perfection.

This Advent-time, we look for the coming again
of Our Lord Jesus as our judge.

He is our judge not to our condemnation,
but to our salvation,
our perfection and our true selves.

Until then, we must keep faithful as
“of the ministers of Christ,
and stewards of the mysteries of God,”
being patient with each other
and with ourselves until He comes again
in glory
to judge the quick and the dead.

What better judgement is there for us than that?