Thursday, May 31, 2018

Lauda Sion Salvatorem

Laud, O Sion, thy Salvation,
Laud with hymns of exaltation
Christ, thy King and Shepherd true:

Spend thyself, his honour raising,
Who surpasseth all thy praising;
Never canst thou reach his due.

Sing to-day, the mystery shewing
Of the living, life-bestowing
Bread from heaven before thee set;

E'en the same of old provided,
Where the Twelve, divinely guided,
At the holy Table met.

Full and clear ring out thy chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting
To thy heart and soul today;

When we gather up the measure
Of that Supper and its treasure,
Keeping feast in glad array.

Lo, the new King's Table gracing,
This new Passover of blessing
Hath fulfilled the elder rite:

Now the new the old effaceth,
Truth revealed the shadow chaseth,
Day is breaking on the night.

What he did at Supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated
His memorial ne'er to cease:

And, His word for guidance taking,
Bread and wine we hallow, making
Thus our sacrifice of peace.

This the truth to Christians given -
Bread becomes His Flesh from heaven,
Wine becomes His Holy Blood.

Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Yet by faith, thy sight transcending,
Wondrous things are understood.

Yea, beneath these signs are hidden
Glorious things to sight forbidden:
Look not on the outward sign.

Wine is poured and Bread is broken,
But in either sacred token
Christ is here by power divine.

Whoso of this Food partaketh,
Rendeth not the Lord nor breaketh:
Christ is whole to all that taste.

Thousands are, as one, receivers;
One as thousands of believers,
Takes the Food that cannot waste.

Good and evil men are sharing
One repast, a doom preparing
Varied as the heart of man;

Doom of life or death awarded,
As their days shall be recorded
Which from one beginning ran.

When the Sacrament is broken,
Doubt not in each severed token,
Hallowed by the word once spoken,
Resteth all the true content:

Nought the precious Gift divideth,
Breaking but the sign betideth,
He himself the same abideth,
Nothing of His fulness spent.

Lo! the Angel's Food is given
To the pilgrim who hath striven;
See the children's Bread from heaven,
Which to dogs may not be cast;

Truth the ancient types fulfilling;
Isaac bound, a victim willing;
Paschal lamb, its life-blood spilling;
Manna sent in ages past.

O true Bread, good Shepherd, tend us,
Jesu of thy love befriend us,
Thou refresh us, thou defend us,
Thine eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see;

Thou who all things canst and knowest,
Who on earth such Food bestowest,
Grant us with thy Saints though lowest,
Where the heavenly Feast thou shewest,
Fellow-heirs and guests to be.

Amen. Alleluia.

Reflection for the day

As Anglican Catholics, we have inherited much from our Fathers. We are still with them in solidarity and do not disconnect ourselves from them in favour of being a la mode, fashionable, or "current". The vehicle of this solidarity is the Eucharist - the Body of Christ. We have received it in common with all members of the Catholic Church, though others would deny that we have. If we doubt that we receive this Body of Christ then we should simply ask ourselves whether we have done all that is necessary to participate with Christ. 

Do we believe in Him to supply what He promised? 
Do we prepare ourselves as a Church to receive what He gives us? 
Do we accept that what we receive unites us as a Church?

We have the Faith of the first Christians and we both keep it tightly bound to our hearts and yet seek to pass it on to all who want to receive it. And the vehicle is the Sacrament which not only we receive but binds us to others because there is only One Body of Christ. If two people receive the Body of Christ, then they are intimately and inextricably bound to each other in Christ. This is a deeper, more penetrating love than any that can exist between human beings, surpassing that love between those who are married.  

This is the love that we have to have for each other. We have to be willing to be bound to each other in Christ. At the moment we cannot receive that, but we can if we allow ourselves to be transformed, if we are willing to repent and seek to be in Christ, not seeking to unite His Immaculate Body with that of the harlot, but seeking to unite a repentant and honest body yearning for repair and completion in the great unification that only Christ can provide. This is not the love in the human breast that believes that Heaven can be built on Earth - that way lies Babel: disunity, discord, death and damnation. This is the love that recognises its own brokenness and seeks conformity in Christ not on the basis of being accepted in the satisfaction of what it is now, but rather on the basis of being accepted and accepting the need for transformation in unity with that Glorious Body.

We Anglican Catholics may not be perceived to be in communion with either Rome nor with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, but we have received the same Faith, and we keep that Faith. And we await our unification in Christ through His true Body Which we receive in every Mass.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Anatomy of Eternal Light

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Did you watch the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex? Perhaps then, you might remember that the bride walked into the Chapel to the music “Eternal Source of Light Divine” by Handel. You might not be very familiar with that. It was composed for the birthday of Queen Anne in 1713. The words, written by Ambrose Philips, run as follows:

Eternal Source of light divine,
With double warmth Thy beams display,
And with distinguished glory shine,
To add a lustre to this day.

Contained in this verse, we can discover the foundation of our Catholic Faith whether or not Philips intended it to be so.

How does this work?


Here on Trinity Sunday, we have a duty to reflect upon the incomprehensible existence of God. Today, we have the opportunity to rejoice in the fact that God must go beyond our understanding, that He must confound our thinking. In order to see this, we must start with what we know.

We believe in God the Father Almighty.

If we start here, then we are acknowledging at least three things. First, that we do believe in God. Second, that He is a Father. Third, that He can do all that is possible to do.

He is the Father, and this is significant. If He is a Father then He must have at least one child. He must be the reason why someone else exists. He is a source – the Eternal Source.

We believe in Jesus Christ, His Son, Our Lord. If Jesus is the Son of God, then He is the reason why His Father is God. Furthermore, we believe that Our Lord Jesus is the only Son of God. As children of our parents, we know that there was a time when we did not exist. We call that “before we were born”. However, we believe that He is the Son but that He was born of the Father in Eternity. This means that Our Lord Jesus is Himself Eternal and, like His Father, there has never been a time when He did not exist. As the Christmas Carol says of Jesus, He is “Very God, begotten, NOT created.” Because the Father and Son are linked very closely, we see that they must both be fully Divine. Jesus tells us that He is the Light of the World, and His Father is the Eternal Source of Light Divine. The Father is God. The Son is God.

But there is only one God. So the Son is fully God and the Father is fully God. But the Father is not the Son. That’s where things begin to go beyond our understanding.


Let’s continue.

We believe in the Holy Ghost, too. We know Him as the Lord and Giver of Life. He is the Breath of God Who is there from the very beginning. He is breathed out by the Father and that is what we mean when we say that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father. Again, this happens in Eternity apart from any created Time. Does the Holy Ghost proceed from the Son?

We see that Jesus breathes out the Holy Ghost on His disciples just before His Ascension into Heaven. However, this is in Time. To ask when the Father brought forth His Son doesn’t make sense because this happens outside of Time. To ask when the Father breathes out the Holy Ghost doesn’t make sense because that happens outside of Time as well. We can say when Jesus breathes out the Holy Ghost, so this means that it isn’t eternal. The Holy Ghost does not eternally proceed from the Son, but rather eternally from the Father and into our Time through the Son. That’s what we should mean when we say in the Creed that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. Each one is God, yet there are not three gods but One God only.


Perhaps you are finding this all very technical and probably exceedingly boring. Why’s that? Perhaps because you stopped understanding what’s being said? Or perhaps you knew this all already? So why bother with it all?

We bother because this complicated God of the Creed is our God. This is how He is and how we begin to form our relationship with Him. Our lack of understanding helps us connect with Him through what we do know. We know that God is our source, the reason why we exist, and by thinking about how He reveals Himself to us, we fall down at His feet worshipping the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, each distinct, each true God.

When our understanding leaves us, this is precisely the moment when we need to stand in the warmth of His light and just enjoy it. This is the Light Divine that warms us completely through, not just our minds, but our bodies and souls as well! We use the loss of our understanding to propel us into that Light Divine where we can truly discover God who exceeds all we can possibly imagine and yet reached out to us in true, pure love, warming our dark, cold lives with the beams of His light.

Let us say our creed and rush headlong past where our heads cry, "stop!" trusting only in His love for us.

Believing in prayer

Sermon for Trinity Sunday
Why do we say the Creed every Sunday after the Sermon? Surely we know what we believe by now.
We believe the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet there are not three gods but one God only. We know that this passes our understanding, but we also know that we want to make sure that we address God correctly. However, we say the Creed in one form of three at every service in the Anglican Catholic Church. Isn’t this overkill? Won’t this make our words a bit too easy to say?
Perhaps what we sometimes for get to appreciate is that we pray the Creed. We don’t just say it! This is why it’s part of our liturgy. Remember that liturgy means “work of the people” – it’s our job to do when we come to worship God.
In ancient times, the Mass was very obviously separated into two bits. The first part of the Mass was attended by everyone so that they could hear the readings and the Gospel. However, at the beginning of the second part of the Mass, all those who had not yet been baptised, those who were new to the Faith and those who were doing public penance of their sins had to leave before the sacrament of the Eucharist took place. In order to receive Communion, you have to believe. We are brought into a relationship with God.
It’s obvious why the people who had just turned up to the Church for the first time were not able to receive Communion. They did not have any idea what they were doing and needed, not just to be taught, but to become familiar with the Church. Let’s be clear, intellectual knowledge is not what you need to be a Christian. It’s not what you know, it’s Who you know. Thus, people new to the faith had not yet begun to form that relationship with God or His Church.
Likewise, sinners too, people who had fallen from the Faith, who had stolen, even murdered, were not allowed to receive Communion for a while – sometimes nearly twenty years. The reason why is actually clear: these folk had broken their relationship with God through their sin and need some time to re-forge that relationship.
In our Mass today, it is the Creed that bridges the gap between the first part of the Mass and the second. It is the moment when we say clearly Whom we worship. If we are going to receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament, then we are going to need to believe that He is there and fulfilling His promise to us that we eat His Body and drink His Blood. However, if we believe in Jesus Christ, then we are going to need to believe in His Father Who sent Him, and the Holy Ghost Whom He sends and by Whom the sacrament happens.
Not only is our Creed a statement of our faith, it is a prayer for our relationship with God. It is a prayer that forces us to confront the immensity and incomprehensibility of God who is in three Persons and yet fully one.
That’s a lot of work to do but saying the Creed prayerfully is the beginning. The more we invest in our Liturgy, in our work to praise God, the deeper our relationship with Him.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Identifying Anglican Catholicism

I suppose that much of which I blog about is the question of labels and naming. The question is and always seems to be these days, what is the noun and what are the adjectives? After all, it is the noun and the adjectives that make the business of identification work. The question is, who gets to choose those adjectives? Do they come from us, or do they come from the world around?

Let us take, for example, the Anglican Catholic Church. That’s the name that we chose for ourselves nearly forty years ago and, yet, every term in our name might be disputed somewhere along the line. It comprises of two adjectives (Anglican, Catholic) and a noun (Church) and thus we do have a burden of responsibility as to why someone else should agree that we are what we say we are.

With regard to “Anglican”, we find ourselves up against the Anglican Communion who would say that, to be Anglican, we must be in communion with the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular. That’s the definition that they use.

With regard to “Catholic”, we find ourselves up against the Roman Catholic Church who would say that, to be Catholic, we must be in communion with the Bishop of Rome and submit to his authority over the whole church.

With regard to “Church”, we find ourselves up against some Protestants who say that we cannot be Christians because we claim to be Catholic and are therefore not of the Church. That being said, neither would the Eastern Orthodox nor the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church regard us as being a Church. These days, the RCC would say that we are an ecclesial community whose relationship with the Church is somewhat ambiguous. Since, for them, the Church subsists in the Roman Communion, it would seem that we are not.

Thus, at every stage we find ourselves in conflict with someone else’s thinking on the matter. We are now faced with a problem because each one of these groups defines each term differently from us. The problem goes away if we just, like Humpty Dumpty, make our own definitions of the terms. However, we are still faced with the fact that we use words to communicate and, if we change the definitions, then we lose that communication with so many people.
Of course, many modern folk will say that language is fluid and that words change their meanings all the time. The child born on the Sabbath Day is bonny, blithe, happy and gay, yet there seem to be a lot of heterosexuals born on a Sunday, too! If words do evolve and change their meaning with time, then clearly who and what we are is not something that can be understood by all people everywhere. Yet, the Catholic Faith is that which is indeed supposed to be believed at all times, in all places by all Christians – at least that’s the impression that St Vincent of Lerins says. Is he defining “catholic” for himself?

If I use the words “hard drive” everyone in the computing industry knows what I’m talking about. Those who lived sixty years ago would think that I had trouble getting from A to B. Thus, context matters: “I had a hard drive to get my hard drive fixed.”

It seems that it cannot ever be wrong to use words and adjectives in their original sense because that is what the words were used for. Thus, if we want to use the phrase “Anglican Catholic Church” in a way that people agree with our use of language then we can always specify that we use the words as meant in their original sense before the intervening centuries changed the meaning. This gives at least a peg on which we can base any further discussions.

Thus, for the word “Anglican” we go back to 1246 and say that it means “English” in the sense of “ecclesia Anglicana”.  Clearly, this predates the Reformation and thus predates the Church of England in the sense that we now mean it, namely those in Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This does pose a problem because, clearly, the present Archbishop, Justin Welby is not be in communion with Archbishop (St?) Boniface of Savoy (incumbent 1241-1270). Archbishop Boniface is clearly a member of the ecclesia Anglicana. Yet, if the Anglican Catholic Church cannot use the word Anglican, neither can the Archbishops of Canterbury from Cranmer onwards! (Cardinal Pole being an exception, perhaps)

Where do we go for “Catholic” in the original sense? The earliest we can go is to St Ignatius of Antioch writing to the Church in Smyrna in AD107 and it appears that the word is older than that. St Ignatius writes (Smyrnaeans viii.2)

οπου αν φανη ο επισκοπος, εκει το πληθος εστω, ωσπερ οπου αν η Χριστος Ιησους, εκει η καθολικη εκκλησια 
Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Nowhere in this definition is any mention of the Pope, just the gathering of the people around the bishop. Yet, neither is the notion of Catholic Church as the body opposed to the later heresies from AD200. Given our firm stance against all the heresies that have arisen over the years, including those of the present age which are a resurgence of the old heresies, we might be oversimplifying our case by going to the original definition. However, we can see that what St Ignatius is getting at is an idea of a church that is unified by the bishops who are worthy of obedience because they possess the ability to dispense grace of the sacraments through God’s grace to them. St Ignatius seeks the unity of the Church in doctrine through that obedience to the Bishops and thus it is reasonable to conclude that, although the notion of Catholic Church versus heretical sects arises from the third century, the word “Catholic” does not change definition sufficiently radically from St Ignatius to St Vincent of Lerins who says that the Catholic Faith is “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.” (That which is believed everywhere, always and by all) Note that the same cannot be said of the Pope’s Universal Jurisdiction.

And what about “Church”? That goes back to the word “kyriakos” meaning belonging to the Lord. By professing our Faith in God we are assured of being members of the Body of Christ. 

So there you have it. We have real and objective reasons for believing that the Anglican Catholic Church is appropriately named. While our name is a registered service mark, we are willing to talk with all those who believe that the phrase might apply to them.

I was made aware of a husband and wife team who started to call themselves the Traditional Anglican Catholic Church. In adding in the word "Traditional" they sought to distance themselves from us. The difference that I noted was that they allowed the highly untraditional and heterodox notion of ordained women. They weren't true to the original definitions of the words.

Why should that matter? Words change their meaning.

Of course it matters. We believe ourselves to be part of the Catholic Church, and that means that we do have a responsibility to all her members to preserve unity. The fact that the majority of those members are dead means nothing: we are still in communion with them and we seek to maintain that solidarity. Thus, in this case, the original senses of the words do matter even if we are using English and not the Greek of St Ignatius, nor the Latin of St Boniface of Savoy.

The "Traditional Anglican Catholic Church" was not true to this idea and is essentially self-contradictory. I believe they have now renamed themselves as the "Trinitarian Anglican Church" which is even more bonkers as you have to be a Trinitarian in order to be in the Church! Quite why they don't join an existing body like the CofE, AMiE, or one of the liberal Old Catholic Churches who ordain women, I don't know. Why exist to preserve disunity among Christians? They even claim to be "continuing Anglican" but have nothing to do with the Congress of St Louis which gave birth to the Continuing Anglican Movement. As of 2017, all Continuing Anglicans are in communion and the Trinitarian Anglican Church is not one of them.

This principle of going back to the roots may not always work, but it should help over disputed terms such as, perhaps, "man" and "woman".

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How to See a Ghost!

Sermon for Whitsunday

Apparently, the British Isles is one of the most haunted countries in the world. Many of its historical sites are reputed to be visited by spirits, some of whom re-enact the manner of their demise. Others stare despondently through windows. Others are said to play pranks.

Apparently twenty-eight percent of British citizens claim to have seen a ghost. What do we think about that? Christians aren't supposed to believe in ghosts, are we?


Of course we are! We are supposed to believe in the Holy Ghost, and we remember that today. But have you ever seen the Holy Ghost?

It's a sad fact that the Holy Ghost is not perceived by many Christians as being very obvious as the Father and the Son. Even in the Bible, the Holy Ghost only seems to become prominent as being foretold by Our Lord and becoming present in the Acts of the Apostles. Yet, He is present throughout the entirety of Holy Scripture, moving on the face of the waters in the first verses of Genesis. We know that Scripture is God-breathed and we remember that the Hebrew word for breath is ruach which is the same as the word used for the Spirit of God.

We do see the Holy Ghost descending on Our Lord like a dove at His baptism. We see His fire upon the heads of the Apostles as they receive their ordination as bishops from God Himself on this day of Pentecost. They have already been baptised with the Holy Ghost when Our Lord breathes on them and tells them, "receive ye the Holy Ghost." This anointing with the Holy Ghost comes after Our Lord's ascension.

We believe that we too, like the apostles, are baptised with the Holy Ghost. Like the apostles, when we were baptised, we probably didn't see anything at that moment. We didn't see the Holy Ghost descend on us like a dove when we were at the font. Our Bishops probably didn't have a fire seen burning above their head when they were consecrated, though there are some reports of unusual and holy things happening for some.

That ought to worry us a bit, for Jesus does say to His disciples that the Holy Ghost "the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." If we don't see the Holy Ghost at our baptisms, confirmations or ordinations, then perhaps we aren't really receiving Him because we aren't seeing Him. Perhaps all of our sacraments are elaborate charades, just dress-up, smoke and mirrors.

You don't believe that, do you?


Of course, some people do believe that and will laugh at us for all our ritual, our strange dress, our focus on little actions which seem so insignificant as to be just silly. Guess what! It's these people who are of the world. They see only through the world's eye; they do not know God because they don't want to know God. Thus, they will be given exactly what they want - an absence of God. They can't receive Him because they won't receive Him.

Our Lord seems to be saying that there are two ways of seeing things, and this really does show up in our church life.

 What we see is wafer and wine, but we are looking with our eyes of the world. If we look again, this time bringing our belief and trust in Our Lord Jesus' promises, then we see His Body and Blood. Nothing changes with our eyes, but something does change in the way that we look at things because we look at them with God showing us His truth.

We see water on the baby's head and, trusting in God, we see a new member of the Church.
We see the hands of the Bishop upon the man's head and, trusting in God, we see a new priest at whose hands we may receive the true grace of God given for us through His love.

We see because we believe. This is the mistake that St Thomas makes and yet he is corrected. It's so sad that he is known as Doubting Thomas for this single instance of doubt when, receiving the Holy Ghost, he goes out and brings Christianity to India which still thrives to this day! We should be calling Him Believing Thomas because we see, trusting in God, a man who brings the faith to people who are hungry for salvation and tired of sin.

We see a church of millions arise from the work of a tiny handful of men and women and, trusting in God, we know it to be the work of the Holy Ghost.


Creation is literally nothing without its Creator. Many people try to disengage the world from God and in doing so lose out on what really is. They lose the light of the world and so things become dark. If we want to see God, then we must believe in Him and we will see Him at work. We can't just ask to see Him as if He were a spectacle like a fireworks show because that is not believing. That is putting Him to the test.

To believe means to love and, if we love, then we must obey His commandments. That's how we see the Holy Ghost!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Postmodern Babel of Self-Definition

So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come. (Walter Gropius, Bauhaus Manifesto 1919)

Now let us compare this with:

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11: 4)
The Bauhaus Manifesto is a crystallization of ideas of various artists which began the whole idea of Postmodernism. While definitions are always a bit tricky to come by, it seems to be a defining characteristic of Postmodernism to seek to rid itself from the shackles of the Modern and to purge itself of former things which impede its becoming.

If Gropius is indeed representative of the postmodern movement in art and if art is the means by which people can engage with the thinking of others on the basis of a physical Impression of a form, then Postmodernism can only ever end in Babel and its consequences.

We see this happening now with the distortion of language whereby people are now defining what words mean on their own terms and thereby rob the conversation of any common language. The claim that we can always self-identify and have the right to be what we say we are is wholly solipsist because it denies the point of view of others. To say that we are what we say we are denies the existence of objectivity and the right of others to speak as they see.

I notice that there are those who refuse to debate their acceptance of the right to self-identify on the grounds that to engage in debate would be tantamount to debating their very existence. Their only recourse is to protest violently and fight to silence their opposition on the grounds that their opposition is an oppressor and they victims of this oppression.

These folk are effectively confusing adjective with definition. If they are not described by the adjectives that they deem to make up their person then they believe themselves to have been diminished in a real way which they interpret as oppression. An Aristotelian might say that there is a confusion of accident with substance, but the materialist would say that there is no distinction to speak of between the two concepts. For the materialist, we are the sum of our adjectives. Yet, those who believe in the right to self-identification - i.e those who believe that they can control how they are to be perceived - not only are they materialist in their thinking, but also, in that they believe that they exercise this control, seek to bend the world to their will in a solipsist manner. They are effectively narcissists.

Thus with the destruction of the objective, these folk destroy any and all honest scientific enquiry but rather subject all science to personal politics and personal philosophy.

Thus, a world in which the right to self-identification is inherent is a world of noise as people try and live as a society of atoms, never truly interacting, never truly sharing anything of humanity and labouring all the while to define themselves against the oppression of others' language. Truly, this becomes a case of l'Enfers c'est les autres. Never can there be any rest or relaxation because the fight to exist is constant. I wonder if this may be the cause of an increased rate of suicide and the call for euthanasia. 

To be truly social is to be self-giving. Love requires this at the deepest level and to love means to allow others to make a claim on you. To desire to be part of a better society means giving up any pretence to a right of our own self-definition and allow ourselves to be identified by others. We cannot join a group by defining ourselves to be a member. We have to wait for the invitation and the consent of others so that we know we can be accepted as we are and as others see us. If there is no invitation or consent, then to take membership of the group by force is a form of rape. It is an affront to Love and to Society. The result is confusion, scattering, isolation and an existential nightmare.

Already, Western Governments are paving the way for self-identification to become a legal right. The societies they govern are becoming sick, jaded, faithless, hopeless and loveless. The only hope is to recognise that we have an objective existence over which we have no control, to accept that, and further to allow it to bring us closer to other human beings and to God Who in being the Creator has the right to define us as we really are so that we can be truly loved.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

An End to the End of All Things

Sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension

It looks as if St Peter has donned his sandwich boards and is strolling through the streets saying, “The end of all things is at hand!” How do you feel about that? How do these people who keep banging on about the end of the world being nigh make you feel?

There have been quite a few dates for the end of the world given recently, none of which have obviously come to pass. In fact, the behaviour of some Christians in predicting the End of the World so accurately is rather embarrassing for the rest of us because it never happens! And we who do not make such sweeping statements about the End get tarred with the same brush of lunacy. It’s not fair, is it?

Is St Peter really one of those who wants us to believe that the world will end next Thursday tea-time?


The End of the World – it’s a phrase that carries images of death, destruction, war, famine, pestilence, Heaven and Hell. And yet, this is perhaps not what St Peter means because he says in his second letter, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Our Lord Himself reminds us that, concerning the End of the World, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” This is clear:  human beings are not to know when the End will come.

Yet St Peter is now two millennia distant from us. How can the End of All things be near if they are in fact so far in the past?

Perhaps there is a different way of understanding the word “End”.


We often say, “the ends does not justify the means.” What does this mean? It means that the task we intend to complete does not allow us to use any method (especially an immoral one) to complete it. The word “end” here is related to the “completed task”. The “End” here is the finished article. When Our Lord cries out, “It is finished” on the Cross, He is crying out in triumph because He has completed our salvation in Him. He has done what He set out to do at the cost of His life. This is Our Lord’s End, but it is not the end of Him as the Resurrection shows.

Our Salvation is completed only by being completed in Jesus Christ Our God. This is our End and it is the End of All things.

St Peter is telling us that we are not talking about an eternal destruction. He is telling us to be aware that we could die at any minute and we need to be sure that we are right with God so that we fulfil His desires for the world. In saying that the End of All Things is near, St Peter is making us pray the Lord’s prayer more sincerely, especially “Thy Will be done.” It is only through God’s will that All Things will be perfected in Him. If we reject that and choose the desires of our own will and thus a life of sin instead then we cannot be part of that Wonderful, Glorious and Happy End.


As we watch Our Saviour ascend to Heaven, then we can live assured that in ascending, He is actually closer at hand to each human being than He was two thousand years ago in Galilee, Nazareth and Jerusalem.

This End of the World is such good news! But we do have to prepare ourselves for it!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ascension to the Outside

If you are the only person to have access to four dimensions, then you only need to move a millimetre to disappear from view. If this is not something you understand, think of your favourite comic strip character - Garfield, for example. Imagine if Garfield were able to move one millimetre above the page of his cartoon - wouldn't Jon and Odie be rather astonished? Garfield would have just disappeared from their page-bound view.

For God all the dimensions of existence lie open before him like some hazelnut in the palm of His hand. No wonder He can appear in locked rooms and ascend from view. This is what Our Blessed Lord can do with ease. His earthly ministry finished, He ascends, stepping out of the small piece of reality to which we are confined, to stand "outside" it all to be with the Father. Quite what this "outside" is we can't know or understand: the only possibility that our human minds can reasonably deduce is that this "outside" is God Himself.

This seems as absurd to the human mind for which time and position, size and weight, concrete and abstract are the framework of our understanding what reality is. If St Thomas Aquinas is correct and the simplicity of God renders Him identical with His Divine attributes, then this must go against anything that we can understand of our own reality and our own being. And yet, it is God Himself who gives us the framework of understanding in the poverty of our fallen existence. It is God who gives us objectivity whereby we must ascend out of very ourselves in prayer and in consideration for others. 

While we must rejoice in the colour of life that our subjective experience gives us, the existence of God is an objective reality upon which we cannot impose any of our subjectivity, but must rely on how He reveals Himself to us. If we want to know God, then we must learn to ascend to Him in the practice of prayer and doing good things according to His Will. This will necessarily take us outside our own perceptions of what is.

As God prepares us for life with Him, that process being Salvation through redemption, justification, sanctification and glorification, so do we become more fully us by letting go of that which we believe defines us and does not. All our labels and self-descriptions are nothing: in the beginning, all God creates us to be is man and woman to live with Him in the Garden of Eden. 

Our Lord ascends, and in so doing we forget about His face though we glimpse it through the ikon. We forget about what He eats or wears; we forget about his size and shape; we forget about all those psychological, sociological, and political labels with which we may have confined our thinking about Him. What remains of Him for us is the Word, now two-thousand years distant. Yet, the Word stands outside, and thus always is what it is. What we are to receive is the Holy Ghost binding us to the outside by bringing that outside within us so that our earthly knowledge of our self becomes just a shell - a shell that will be discarded when we too ascend.

Thus, the Church can never be "the Modern Church" because "modern" is part of the shell to be discarded. If our Faith is not of Eternity, then it is nothing and to be thrown off. If our Faith roots itself in the here and now, then it will be left there and come no further. If we want a Faith that changes with time, then we have no faith at all because Time itself will be discarded on the Outside. "The Modern Church" is a selfish institution, introspective and self-satisfied, accepting the limp and frail aspects of ourselves as the only things that must be included. There is nothing of Eternity therein, just empty words, empty logic, and empty comfort.

Yes, the Church must be radically inclusive, because it must include what really is, and separate it from the Hell of being insubstantial. It must accept people as they are, casting away their labels, and allow them to change by casting away their labels for themselves. It is the radically inclusive Church that helps human beings become the men and women they were created to be in God by helping them ascend to the Outside, an Outside that lies within. That ascension has been gifted to us in the Ascension of Our Lord.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

God's phone number

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Easter

What do you do if you’re leaving a place that you’ve called home for such a long time? Clearly, there’s packing to be done, the place to be tidied for the next person in your lodgings, and then there are your friends.

These aren’t just acquaintances we’re talking about here. Not the people you talk with about the weather in the street whom you never get to know. These are your friends and you want to stay in touch with them. What do you do? Surely you give them the contact details of your new address.


This is why, as He approaches His crucifixion, we see the disciples clamouring around Jesus wanting to know where He is going and wanting to come too. We see hear them ask for things that will give them assurance that all will be well.

As yet, they don’t really know that the events of the next few days aren’t the end but the beginning.

They are not yet ready for the Resurrection.

And yet, Our Lord hands them His contact details anyway.

“ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

Strange contact details!


This is the point. These will not be the contact details that we’re used to in our age of email and tweet. The contact that Our Lord gives us is Himself in the coming of the Holy Ghost. Our contact is prayer and the phone number is the Name of Christ Himself. We ask in His name to receive what God is willing to give us.

All we have to do to be in contact with Our Lord Jesus, our Friend, Our Lover, Our Master, Our King, Our Judge, is to pray in His Name and we are in direct contact with Him.
We can, of course, get the wrong number, though.


Just by sticking the phrase “in Jesus’ Name” onto a prayer is not a guarantee that we’ve prayed in the Name of Our Lord. What if we’ve got the phone number wrong and prayed in the Name of a different Jesus- it’s a common name! Perhaps we pray in the Name of a Jesus who is a figment of our imagination. After all, there are so many people who pray only to a Baby Jesus lying in the manger and forget the entirety of His Incarnation, not just a well-rehearsed Nativity Play. There are so many who pray to a Jesus who will accept them for who they are no matter what they do, a Jesus who will accept their own idea of what’s right and wrong and who will sanction their behaviour because it is done in His Name.

They do not have Our Lord’s contact details. The do not pray in His Name.


Prayer takes a great deal of effort to do well. It is something we must struggle at and fail at and get frustrated at, because we are engaged upon our search for the real Lord Jesus. We are to pray in His Name, which means that we have to be ruled by His law, find good what He calls good, reject what He calls bad, and repent of all that we do wrong in His eyes. His morality is not the same as those of our society around us. Indeed, If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, then all His followers must abide by the same morality if they are to know Him, and through Him, the Father.
The Church has a whole compendium of prayers for us to use because they are shaped by the relationship which Our Lord has with the saints. It’s why we have Liturgy so that we don’t follow too much the devices and desires of our own hearts that we might otherwise do through always only using our own prayers. Our Lord is clear:

At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.

God will hear each and everyone who truly believes in Him and this God is the One in Whom we shout out our Faith in the words of the Creeds. If we believe, then we must show that we believe not just by saying the words but by living out what they mean, following them to their conclusions and suffering the scorn of the world for following the True Jesus and not the straw man that it tries to palm us off with.


We know how to contact God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If we’ve forgotten His number, then we just need to find His address book. It’s called the Church and His number is written in the lives of the saints.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Inventions, Myth and Consciousness

Today, in my Benedictine Breviary, is the Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross. Obviously this is not the same as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross which occurs on the 14th September when we celebrate the dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Today, we celebrate the finding - the literal translation of inventio - of the Holy Cross.

Of course, the cross is a symbol that goes beyond the Christian usage. It's pretty much universal, though ascribed different meanings. It can be found as a symbol for burial in the Bronze Age in which it is circumscribed by the disc of the sun. It can be tally marks, two Greek letters, ten in Chinese rod numerals or seven in Shang oracle bone numerals. It is the shape of a man standing with his arms outstretched, or with arms and legs stretched out. Even the Egyptian Ankh is a version of the cross.

If we want to find the true cross, then we have to find the right meaning and that requires a framework - essentially a cultural narrative. The Truth is explored through the narrative of collective human experience. As a Christian, I believe I have good grounds that the Christian narrative epitomised in Holy Scripture and given voice by the Church throughout Time in the teaching of the Fathers gives the most accurate framework for knowing what Reality is through contact with God Himself, the Creator and thus Arbiter of what truly is. That which does not conform to this narrative is deficient and ultimately leads the soul away from God and into Hell.

 I note with a degree of cynicism the thoughts of those who think they know what Hell is. I note that there are those who reject God in favour of finding a deeper meaning in the path to Hell or the path to oblivion. Pop Music has brought out bands like Black Sabbath and, more lately, Ghost which glorify that which is Satanic ostensibly in the guise of entertainment. There is something in our culture which sees skeletons dressed as popes titillating and entertaining because it rebels against the narrative - it tries to tell a different side of the story.

This is something that we might note frequently happens in our society today. How many films are remakes of older versions? I seem to remember a shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's Psycho and I wondered why. What's the point of that? If we want to tell the original story, then we put on the original film. I fail to see why remakes are necessary. Many will say that this is to do with updating the special effects or bringing out the "true meaning" of the story imbuing it with extra nuances and details that weren't there originally.

There are those, of course, who would say the same about the Christian Narrative, particularly those such as Bart Ehrmann who seeks the truth by "demythologising" Holy Scripture. As we've seen already,  Myth is something that we cannot really dismiss as not being God's word. Calling something a myth is not saying that it has nothing of the Truth in it.

 Yet, when it comes to the Gospels, there is a fundamental desire to preserve the truth and here History becomes Myth and Myth History. This poses a problem for historians like Bart Ehrmann for whom miracles cannot happen, and so any miraculous doings must be re-interpreted in a "truth" that fits a framework without miracles. He would reject any narrative in which the miraculous plays a part. So would many materialists in the Scientific community. They reject myth in favour of the "truth".

What they cannot see is that the whole of the Scientific approach is written in its own narrative in which parts are played by Aristotle, Hypatia, al-Khwarizmi, Roger Bacon, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Mendel, Einstein, Bohr, Lemaitre, Dawkins and Hawkins all play their inextricable and valuable part. Their discoveries are part of the Grand Narrative of "How?" and the story is worth telling because it pertains to something of the truth. The materialist scientific myth is worth knowing both for its explanation and for its failure to be the only means to the "truth". For one thing, it may try to explain consciousness as an emergent phenomenon or as an epiphenomenon in the brain as part of neural processes. While we may often reject views that are subjective, the fact that the subjective exists in the first place is a problem when it comes to believe that human beings are biological machines and therefore theoretically and completely objective. How can the firing of neurotransmitters in the brain translate to the sensation of pain that we all feel, and know how it feels, and yet cannot adequately translate that feeling to others without the use of a narrative, metaphor or analogy - a mini-myth?

As we look at a world that is struggling with itself, we see great examples of pain and suffering emblazoned on our screen in their own narratives. We see the recent atrocity from ISIS turning a captured Syrian into an explosive missile and from that we see a glimpse of the mythology of Hell lying so close to the human soul. We see the stories of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans and we see the myth of the struggle between state and soul, the individual and the Social Machine.

For Christians, the Cross becomes the bridge between our understanding of reality and what reality is. Indeed, we find the true cross by confronting reality. First, there is the reality of pain and suffering in our own lives and in the lives of others. We see it, and we suffer too, not as a bundle of neural transmitters but as human beings who have some degree of empathy, sympathy and love for one another. Indeed, we see our togetherness in suffering and in sin.

Second, we note that the Narrative of the Cross  crosses the Narrative of History. The Cross is an historical fact and this allows for the Christian Myth to be a potent and essential vehicle for the study of Reality because it presents us with God Incarnate. No longer is God a resident of etiological myth but He becomes Historical. We see Christ and we see the Father. Thus, the etiological myth present in the Old Testament bears witness to truth beyond mere History.

Third, we see Hope for all of us trying to find meaning. We no longer have to be the authors of our own myth as the Existentialists would have us do to prevent suicide. We no longer have to be slaves to finding an authentic self from scraps is sensation and the whims of passing fashion. We do not have to be both Frankenstein AND the Creature. The Christian Narrative is a freedom from total self-construction into a co-operative enterprise in which we create ourselves under the guiding hand of a Loving and Eternal Father.

To be authentic is to root our consciousness in God through Christ and unite it with our fellows so that our Narratives weave together and become, perfected by the Christian Narrative, a testament of what is truly real.

We should never be afraid of the old, old story, just the new, new ones that sell their authenticity for the fleeting relevance of Modernity.