Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Stitching with the Saints

On St Francis' Day 2003, I was admitted and licensed as a Reader in the Church of England. Since then, I have acquired two new anniversaries - Michaelmas and St Bartholomew's Day - for my ordinations. Of course, it's early days to see precisely where this will take me, after all I do have to follow Cardinal Newman's thought that one step should be enough for me, so seeing the distant scene is definitely out.

Yet, I am now gathering quite a few heavenly friends. St Benedict holds my oblation, St Thomas Aquinas my attention, St Francis my Readership, St Michael my Diaconate and St Bartholomew my participation in the Sacred Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. if I were a superstitious man, I would start to think that I had to emulate each of them in each of those areas of my life as specified. My fiancée would be very distressed if I suddenly took it upon myself to become a Benedictine monk who preached like St Francis, served at the altar like an archangel. Of course, as a priest, I share in the same priesthood as St Bartholomew anyway. Nonetheless, as much as I would like the devotion of St Benedict, the intellect of St Thomas, the joie de vivre of St Francis, and the valour of St Michael, I have none of these things. So, my poor, long-suffering fiancée has nothing to worry about.

There was once a bit of a fad in neuro-lingual programming which suggested that one tried to become one's heroes in order to follow one's own path in life. I often hear it said, and even once thought it myself, that the Church in England needs a new Oxford Movement, or a new Wesleyan Revival, et c. Apparently we need another Newman, another Pusey, another Keble, another Fr. Ignatius of Llantony. Why? They have all passed to their Eternal rest, their legacy remains, but like Newman himself showed quite wonderfully, these men have crumbled to dust on earth and live with God.

And the world still moves on. These folk cannot exist now: their time is part of them, an intimate part too. People cannot be lifted from one time to another and remain the same person. The fabric of history and causality relies upon its integrity of which each of us is indeed a part. We are products of our time, our choices are influenced by our time, and we produce, influence and shape our time around us.

This is, of course, how we are affected by the Fall as the causal nexus around us contains the rents in its fabric which signify the presence of Evil. Evil, being the privation of anything good, makes us call out for something to fill the void, or someone to fill that void. If Evil exists as the tears in the fabric of God's good creation, then somehow we have the opportunity to try and hold things together, and to preserve that which is truly Good. Our duty as Christians is to step into the breach and fill the hole and allow ourselves to become part of the fabric of our temporal world, rather than be bystanders, or content with the holes in our lives.

The Church is the Royal Priesthood, and every Christian is called to participate in that priestly ministry, to become a pontiff, a bridge-builder spanning the gaping wounds that Evil forms, so that Evil itself ceases to exist. There is a hole that only we can fill, even bearing the holes in our own being from our own sin, and no other person can fill that void. Our Lord reminds us that "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse." Newman cannot cause a new Oxford Movement today. It wouldn't work.

We know that, one day, we shall stand with St John the Divine when he says, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." If this new heaven and new earth were markedly different from the present heaven and earth, St John would not have recognised them. What he sees is our heaven and earth made whole again without the trace of Evil ruining the integrity of His creation. It is God who makes things new and not we ourselves.

All we have to do is to keep choosing God and living our lives in His way. He gives us room to be ourselves because that is what He created us to be. While we may want to emulate our heroes, and their influence will certainly be strong in us, we are not our heroes, we are us. We must not apologise for not being another St Thomas Aquinas, but seek to discover our own peculiar vocation in our life and find which hole we are meant to stitch. God has given us ourselves and that is Good News, He has also saved us from the Evil within us, that is also Good News, and He also promises the New Heaven and New Earth for us to enjoy if we choose to be with Him. That is the Best News of all.

All we have to do is to look for our place to stitch. Of course, some people get nailed into that place.

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