Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Blogday 2009

Crikey, is it a year already? This little blogling is 4 years old!

As usual, I look at what I wrote last year.

Well, what's changed? Very little on the Parish front. I ceased my sabbatical just after Easter, but I no longer preach in church because there is little point if the liturgy is made up and the Mass lacking direction, and there is no attempt to bring the congregation into the presence of God. Anything I preach is now exclusively at the school.

It's also been a year in which my faith has suffered a bit of a blow at the hands of my rationalism. However, according to the BBC Television series Apparitions, it's good to take one's faith out of
the box and give it an airing, though that's the trite way of looking at it. God does not exist just to provide explanations to those who have no intention of believing in Him, nor for those who are unwilling to invest some intellectual effort into understanding this universe. As it is I do feel closer to God at the moment as my exile continues.

Ties with Elmore Abbey have improved. I am now in the process of becoming a novice oblate for which I am thankful. Clearly the monks at the Abbey are the subjects of much prayer in their rather diminished state. The Community has enriched the lives of many folk and, in this day and age, they need to continue for the sake of showing how to live the gospel of Christ rather than bellowing it badly from street-corner megaphones.

As for my rabid Anglican Papalism, well, I haven't had much time to think about it of late, though there appears to be movement happening there. It's hard to call oneself a member of a movement if one is, to all intents and purposes, the only exponent of that movement in one's viewpoint. As Fr Straw points out, what I am looking for as an Anglican Papalist (if indeed that is what I am), does not exist - yet.

I am also pleased to have helped to set up the Anglican Diaspora which has grown steadily since its conception in March. I am grateful to the team of moderators who keep it running well. The Diaspora is just a small attempt to bring together groups of Anglo-Catholics of all hues from around the world in a time when Unity is just not happening, rather the reverse judging from the actions of ECUSA's litigious CEO, GAFCON and Lambeth and the General Synod's declaration that it wants Tradition excised from the C of E by stating that it will not provide episcopal oversight for those who assent to

One of the areas in which I agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury is that dialogue needs to continue as far as is possible. My question is, how far is he willing to talk with the Continuing Anglicans? He still has ++Coggan's edict to undo before any meaningful conversation can be struck up there, and the C of E needs to hear the Continuing voices as loudly and as clearly as possible as the points that they make are vital to the existence of the Church.

I also pray for greater Unity between jurisdictions of the Continuing Churches. I have seen signs of that in the way that some dioceses have suffragans who are bishops from other jurisdictions. There's a prayer for that to continue to happen.

Study has not been good this year: Latin, Greek and Hebrew have fallen by the side, but musically I've produced a couple of large scale pieces which aren't too bad.

So what of 2009? I hope to get back to studying, though which direction I take is as yet unclear. I also pray for a transformation in attitudes to the Church's worship of God especially in my Parish this year, as it would be nice to preach in the pulpit once more.

Again, as I've got busier, so the number of my posts has got more infrequent. The only moral there is that I am one of those people who will always fill up his time as more becomes available. This isn't a good thing, and now that I have been received as Novice Oblate at Elmore, I am beginning to develop techniques of "wasting time" with God. There is much to be said for sitting in silence - impossible in a classroom, nor easy after a long day in the classroom when the tendency is simply to nod off (God gives to His beloved sleep). Still, that comes with practice.

Of course, there will soon no longer be a community at Elmore due to the monks moving to Salisbury and more manageable premises. Please pray that dedicated monastic vocations will increase in 2010.

The Anglican Diaspora forum is also doing well, though it has quietened down after rather a stormy set of posting by folk with greater pride in their intellect than is healthy.

There have been several low points this year. The first was having to relinquish relations with the Continuum blog which used to be a chance for fair and informative debate, but now seems more intent on ad hominem criticisms of theological worthies, no less than the saintly Cardinal Newman. I see it more of a walking apart a la Paul and Barnabus rather than anything more negative and certainly wish the hosts there every blessing in their ministry.

Secondly, I have been the subject of personal attack and vilification with regard to my conservative attitudes by people whom I had hitherto trusted. They are entitled to their opinions, but if they truly seek to engender a Christian attitude, then they have a lot of thinking and reflecting to do.

And then there's the Ordinariate. I confess that I have problems with it. These problems are not on the grounds of Faith but rather on the grounds of politics and those who would seek to mix Faith and Politics. The Anglican-Roman Schism occurred on account of politics, and its seems that many people are trying to accept the Apostolic Constitution without thinking about the political ramifications and the Anglican milieu. I would be happier if I were in a community that were considering the matter, but, as it was last year, there are no expressions of Anglo-Catholicism in my area.

I am still a Papalist, though I have largely dropped the adjective Anglican because many folk do not regard me as Anglican. Admittedly, I am still very confused as to how I communicate my Papalism in what I claim to be a fully Anglican manner. To many that is a contradiction and that it is impossible to be Anglican and to be the Pope's man. But I am, though I see in myself some doubts as to whether the Holy See and the Roman Catholic Church are precisely the same thing. I need to think more on that. I hope I shall be given the opportunity in the coming year.

I am disappointed by the polemical attitude by some of the Anglican Papalists who seem to think that they can convince less-papally minded Anglicans by smacking them over the head with the Catechism of the Catholic Church without fully appreciating its teaching themselves. Anglican Papalism is better communicated in the sincere, quiet and reserved practice of the Christian religion rather than by unpleasant, personal and polemical argument.

Study has gone completely out of the window. I seem to have been saying each year that I must study more, and each year, I seem never to grasp the opportunities. I guess it is a lack of direction. Seeing that I am using the Breviarium Romanum more and more in my private devotions, I hope that this will at least stimulate some further study. Of course, when I lead worship in my Parish, I am careful to use the BCP and the Anglican Breviary - I'm not that insensitive!

My parish will be moving into an interregnum this coming year, and I don't hold out much hope that we will be protected from women claiming to be in Holy Orders. I do seek to minister as best as I can in the circumstances, but fear that my calling in the Parish will be over by the time of the next Blogday.

There are still some very positive aspects to 2010, and I hope to do a little bit more study and sit a lot more silently over the next twelve months. I'll keep the preaching going, and keep the praying going.

To my readers and my followers, I extend my gratitude for their reading and commenting, and hope that you will all have a grace-filled 2010. God bless.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Feast of the Nativity 2009

The Christmas message sent to all members of the Anglican Diaspora Message Board.

As we come to the end of another year, it seems that Christmass gives us a chance to present the year that is gone to the Christ-child.

We come with tales of joy of new missions or the growth of jurisdictions, of finding a spiritual home or ententes cordiales.

We come with tales of sadness, of squabbling, excommunications and persecutions, of bitterness and a sense of hopelessness - not exactly gifts to bring a newborn baby! The uniqueness of Christ at the centre of Creation means we have no choice what we bring - we bring ourselves.

As we gather around the manger at our Midnight Masses, our Christ-mass, and our Offices on the Feast, we have no choice but spiritually to rub shoulders with all Christians, all straining to gaze upon the Infant Christ. It seems that Christmass offers us its own Ordinariate in which the Ordinary is God Himself as Man. The shelter of this Ordinariate may be a cold, dank and smelly stable, but it is our job to turn it into the palace of a king, for it is here, in Christmass that we find the shelter from the Time's all-consuming storm and the chaos of the world. For what reason has Christ Ordained us, clergyman or lay?

As we gaze upon the Child, we forget all the prophecies of doom, because we gaze upon the Fulfilment of Prophecy, and the End of Humanity as being separate from God. This is our destiny, and what a true Joy it is.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Emmánuel

O Emmánuel, Rex et légifer noster, exspectátio Géntium, et Salvátor eárum : veni ad salvándum nos, Dómine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, King and our bearer of the Law, Hope of the people and their Saviour: Come for to save us, Lord, Our God!

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

The word legifer is intriguing. My Latin dictionary (yes, I found it) translates it as Lawgiver, yet the words lucifer (light bearer) and dapifer (a waiter or feast-bearer) have this sense of carrying something, or bearing something for the purpose of distribution, hence my translation above.

God comes among us, stays with us. Over the past week we have seen how He brings the Law as the Wisdom of God to stretch us into the people upon whom He can smile; how he appears to Moses as the Great Lord Adonai with tables of stone; how He bears the full weight of the Law upon the Cross as the root of David nailed upon the Tree; how He bears the Law to set us free from its shackles; how His Law is a lantern to our feet and a light unto our paths as He rises with the Dayspring; how He bears the Law as King and true and lawful Ruler of the people.

This Divine Law rules the Universe. It may be described as mathematical rules, but these may only describe a meagre portion of our existence. It may exist in Catechisms and Creeds and Councils, but the full Revelation is not yet made. It may show us how to live lives, yet our understanding of its true legality merely hinders us and cannot save us. The Greatness of this Law, the full power of its Salvation lies in one simple fact: a baby is born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

This is the Divine Law. God is with us. He has always wanted to be with us. He was born with us. He died with us. He is with us.

And we shall be with Him.

In Eternity.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Rex Géntium

O Rex Géntium, et desiderátus eárum, lapísque anguláris, qui facis útraque unum : veni, et salva hóminem, quem de limo formásti.

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.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

The Israelites longed for a king and got Saul then David then Solomon then Rehoboam and with each of them a whole host of trouble. God was naturally quite miffed when the people decided to abandon Theocracy in favour of Monarchy, especially when the One Leader (as Monarch literally translates) is not God Himself.

The result of having one leader who manifestly is not God is that it tends to polarise people. One can look first at the polarisation of the Kingdom of Israel under David's grandson Rehoboam which then divided into Northern and Southern Kingdoms, and then casting one's eye down the annals of the centuries we find divisions all over the show: Catholic and Schismatic, Norman and Saxon, Catholic and Protestant, Church and State, Moslem and Jew, Democrat and Republican, Conservative and Liberal, Science and Religion.

The world is getting wearied by this constant division, especially since some divisions are largely illusory. How does the Magnificat divide people? - the Proud, Mighty and Rich versus the Humble, Meek and Hungry. These are the divisions that really matter in the sight of God who is not a respecter of the masks that we are or the labels that we give ourselves. Humility, meekness (which is not a form of Quietism!) and hunger for God are the tenets upon which the Lord Himself tells us builds the Church. He is the Chief Corner Stone and we are built into the Church using those very tenets: that we are what we are and not what we pretend to be: that we submit our will to the rule of Christ, and that we truly hunger for Him alone.

Division is caused by those who exert their power over others, who believe themselves to be their own law and those who hoard their resources for themselves impervious to another's poverty. These lie at the heart of every Schism.

Christ prayed that we might be one. His prayer is being answered in the affirmative.

Monday, December 21, 2009

O Oriens,

O Oriens, splendor lucis ætérnæ, et sol justítiæ : veni, et illúmina sedéntes in ténebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star, splendour of Eternal light and Sun of Righteousness: come and illumine those sitting in darkness and the shadow of Death.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

The British Isles of course have many a relic of its pagan past with the great standing stone circles constructed so beautifully mathematically as astronomical and astrological calendars. Among these great prehistoric edifices, stand Maes Howe in Orkney and Newgrange on the banks of the Boyne in the Republic of Ireland. Newgrange was built about 3250 BC, Maes Howe in about 2670 BC

These latter two are tumuli - tombs of of local families of an age so distant that it barely seems possible. Certainly we are looking at folk contemporaneous with the great Jewish Patriarchs, if not a little before.

And yet Newgrange is beautifully constructed with a tiny window so precisely aligned that, as the Sun rises on the Winter solstice itself, the light penetrates this window filling the entire tomb with light for only a few minutes. That radiant light then abruptly shuts out. This event only ever happens at Sunrise on the Shortest Day of the Year. For Maes Howe, it is Sunset on the Winter Solstice when this phenomenon happens. Did these prehistoric folk enter the tomb at this time to be with their ancestors? Or was this light for the benefit of the dead alone? I'm afraid I'm not sufficiently well-read to know.

However, this is just a marvellous example of how the signature of God has been written across the centuries of human consciousness. For here we are, as Christians, finding each year in our liturgy one day of Light in the Darkness. All too briefly, Christmas day is over and we are plunged back into the sameyness of our existence.

The trouble is that we can be tempted to see this light as being samey. We can become clouded and obstructed by the cares of the secular Christmas that the little windows into our souls become blocked up so that the light of Christ does not penetrate into the depths of our being? God gave us Christmas to remember that he has not forgotten us. This world may be dark, but he remembers His mercy, which is probably why the End of Days hasn't happened yet, so that we may have the benefit of seeing the beauty of God's creative Light in our lives.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

O clavis David

O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israël ; qui áperis, et nemo claudit ; claudis, et nemo áperit : veni, et educ vinctum de domo cárceris, sedéntem in ténebris, et umbra mortis.

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.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

There is very little light in the gaol, just a tiny little window (barred of course) up in the top of the room which casts just a solitary cold white beam onto the filthy wall. As the day moves on, so the light traces its way across the wall, picking out the mould-covered bricks that drizzle water, the spiders' webs hanging with the corpses of long dead cockroaches and the odd slug or snail oozing its way across the wall in a vain hunt for any greenery.

On the floor of the prison, Victor sits forgotten, surrounded by rotten straw, a tattered sheet and, regrettably, his own waste. He sits waiting, stinking; his hair and beard long grown, his clothes barely possessing the integrity to cover his emaciated frame. He sits in pain as his teeth rot, his feet rot and his belly rots, and he longs for release.

There is a clatter, and a plate filled with good bread and a bowl of a good wine are pushed towards him. Victor's eyes light up - feeding time! He grabs the bread, hungrily gnawing at it - it is gone in seconds. The wine is gone in one long gulp.

"Oh Victor," says the voice outside the door. "How long are you going to be in there? It seems like centuries, doesn't it? How long before you feel the breath of the air on your face, the sight of the Sun, the company of good folk? Do you even remember why you're here?"

Victor scurries back to his filthy corner and refuses to move at the sound of the voice.

"Oh Victor, has your memory gone completely? Do you not remember that man with the Key? How he unlocked the door, gave you food and drink, bathed your wounds, spoke words of comfort to you before he left? Look around you, Victor, are you really better off since his visit?

Look carefully Victor. Can't you see it? When that man left you, he left the door open. You have always been free to leave. All you have to do is head for the door, walking, running, crawling, in whatever way you can. Why have you remained there all this time?"

Victor puts his filthy hands with their broken nails to his ears to block out his voice, and settles down to sleep as the light from the window finally goes out.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

O radix Jesse

O radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populórum, super quem continébunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabúntur : veni ad liberándum nos, jam noli tardáre.

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!

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

There are many allusions to the Tree in Holy Scripture. The Tree of the fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Jesse, and the Holy Tree of the Cross.

The tree is a sign that has stood with us for centuries with sacred symbolism. The Norse Myths have Yggdrasil as the binding component of heaven and earth with a root in Hell (Niflheim) gnawed by the wyrm Níðhöggr, the branches stretching into the heavens.

This Pagan tree of Yggdrasil points very directly to the Tree of Christ. The Legend of St Boniface cutting down the Pagan tree to prevent the sacrifice of a Child (thus providing the world with a Christmas tree) shows us the sign of Christ standing in our homes each Christmas, if we bother to see Him amid the modern idols that have been set up at Christmas.

It is Odin who breaks off a branch of Yggdrasil to fashion into a spear with which he will fight. He claims control of Yggdrasil. Likewise, we human beings claim ownership of the world and its resources, all the fruits of Creation are ours for the plucking, or so we thought, as we now see our handiwork in a lest fruitful light.

It is from the Tree of Life that Our Lady is fruitful. The fruit of this tree undoes the captivity of men, be they pauper, prince, peasant or pope. It is the sight of the Crucified king on a tree with the Queen Mother, a little Jewish lady that silences all the claims to authority, of ownership and control of the tree. The Tree is God's and rather than ravish it, He nourishes it with His own Blood, and so nourishes His own people.

This Tree of Life which stretches back centuries will fill the hungry with good things. The Tree of the World cannot nourish us; its fruit cannot sustain us any more than prolong a worldly existence: those who are rich in this will become increasingly ravenous.

Friday, December 18, 2009

O Adonái

O Adonái, et Dux domus Israël, qui Móysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuísti, et ei in Sina legem dedísti : veni ad rediméndum nos in bráchio exténto.

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.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Are we Christians of the New Testament only? Do we really hold the Old Testament as closely to ourselves as we do the new? Yes, of course, we interpret the Old Testament in the Light of the New - that's the correct way - but do we regard the Old Testament as highly as we ought? It has an integrity of its own, after all.

To the Jews, the Bible just consists of that one Testament - the Law and the Prophets, and what a reverence they have for their Law. Why not? It is the Law of God, God-given, God-scripted and God-breathed and it is truly a work of Love. The Law was not written to bind the Jews at all, but to free them from the slavery of the Egyptians both literal and metaphorical. The Great Decalogue, when read correctly, is less an collections of ten dos and don'ts but rather a set of Divine Precepts to enable us to live decent ordered and holy lives. Of course, they give us also measure ourselves against the Will of God and this is the darker side of the Law.

St Paul goes to great lengths to show us that the Law does nothing to help us if we see the Law as an absolute way of working and God as an impassive and remote judge ready to bring down plague upon plague upon any offender. God's true law is written in the sincerity of the heart thirsting for God. Why else does He bother to stretch His arm across what to us may be pan-galactic distances, but to Him a fraction of the Planck Length?

The Law pf God is absolute but powerless to save in itself.

The Love of God is absolute, but to all the lowly servants and handmaids it is an arm that shews strength, shews the Strength of Love as well as the sheer Power of God. Love is stronger than the Law because it fulfils the Law. A little Jewish couple knew it, taught it to their little boy Who took it into His heart, obeyed it with all of His heart, was pierced for it even to His heart and so redeemed us all - with his arms outstretched.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Sapientia

O Sapiéntia, quæ ex ore Altíssimi prodiísti, attíngens a fine usque ad finem, fórtiter suavitérque dispónens ómnia : veni ad docéndum nos viam prudéntiæ.

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.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

`One side of what? The other side of what?' thought Alice to herself. `Of the mushroom,' said the Caterpillar, just as if she had asked it aloud.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Antiphons of course span one end of the Magnificat to the other and give us a way to colour that oft said song of Our Lady. However, what are these "ends" of this Antiphon that Divine Wisdom is said to span? The sides of the mouth of God? If so then Wisdom is the expression of a Divine smile beaming out across Creation, for surely a smile is the greatest distance that a mouth can span.

With the song of Joy that is the Magnificat, we can see this Wisdom pour forth a mystery, an abundance of opposites - the Virgin conceives and bears a son; he crooked path is straightened; the exalted are humbled; the humble exalted. This is a Wisdom that challenges our preconceived ideas, our dogmata and our doctrine, that transforms our world and turns them upside down.

And we're supposed to be joyful at this wholesale destruction of our order?

Of course we are! What we see as wholesale destruction is that of our worldliness which, if we let it continue, may challenge the teachings we receive but never negate them, rather open up the way into seeing a wider horizon - the horizon that Wisdom herself spans. Science and knowledge are too thin for Wisdom, for she spans no less than the Divine Smile. The Church possesses the fullness of Divine Truth, but Wisdom dictates that she cannot perceive it in Time, but only in the Totality of her being, Temporal, Aeviternal and Eternal for Divine Wisdom spans Time, Aeviternity and Eternity.

The promise is this: our own existence is infinitesimal, yet if we allow Divine Wisdom to stretch us, then we too will be able to perceive the Smile of God and feel His Joy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.


Fr. John Mason Neale

I've not been very good at writing reflections this year. The weight of confusion and disillusionment has lent upon me rather heavily as well as trying to meet the demands of necessity that my wonderful students make of me. I confess that I've not been especially well in my mind this year with depression hitting me rather hard; certainly spirituality has been very difficult to cultivate. However, I am going to make an effort to try and reflect upon the Seven Advent Antiphons and publish them here.

These wonderful Antiphons accompany the Song of Our Lady, the Magnificat from 17th - 23rd December. Most people are familiar with them as the verses of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, yet their usage as Antiphons seems to be somewhat laid aside within the CofE. The Magnificat is said or sung every Evening, so it is easy for the words to become jaded - if we allow them to. The Antiphons should help us out by giving a colour to that text.

So then, it seems profitable to translate the Antiphons from Latin into English myself, meditate on these and try to see what colours Our Lady's song receives as we move towards the Feast of the Nativity. I shall thus attempt to make my first post on 17th December.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Reasons why you shouldn't kick the Christmas Decorations!

Homily preached at Eltham College on Tuesday 1st December based (loosely) on St. Matthew ii.

Down comes the box
out of the loft.

after Dad manages
to wedge it stuck in the loft doorway,
and only frees it
with a good kicking.

After dusting it down,
the box is opened.

Thus begins the task
of unpacking
the Christmas decorations.

Dad is trying to work out
where on earth to put them this year.

Mum's put the new chest of drawers
in the place where the Christmas tree
used to go.

First out of the box
is that very tree,
that noble exemplar
of Christmas decorations,
proud, lush,
green and elegant.

Of course,
this Christmas tree is plastic
and 12 months in the loft
have rendered it scrunched up
and misshapen,
resembling less a pine tree
and more
an ancient, green
giant lavatory brush.

Next out of the box
is a shoebox marked
“Tree Decorations – Be Careful”
in thick black marker.

The fact that the shoebox
makes a noise
not unlike broken glass
reminds Dad
that kicking the box down from the loft
wasn’t a good idea.
Now he has to make
a trip to Bluewater
to pick up new baubles
and other decorations.

In another shoebox lies the fairy.

decades of facing the agony
of being thrust on the very top of the tree
have taken their toll.

Now she looks about as glamorous
as the discarded Barbie Doll
that Dad sat on last year
- another item on Dad’s shopping list.

And so it goes on.

The tinsel is in a knot
that defies the laws of physics.

The fairy lights have blown a fuse.

And the Baby Jesus
in the very expensive Nativity Set
seems to have been replaced with
a Lego Darth Vader.
The resulting search for the Lord
in an Imperial Tie Fighter
is fruitless.

“Oh,” says Mum,
“why do we bother with this.

It’s the same every year.”

Mum’s got a point don’t you think?


Year after year we see,
and sometimes wrestle with,
the same old Christmas decorations
to the extent that they seem commonplace.

Most of you will have seen
between 11 and 19 Christmasses.

Some staff members
are candidates for having witnessed
the first Christmas,
so think what it’s like for them!

We sing of “White Christmasses”,
yet only 13% of the Christmasses
since 1950 were white.
Our Christmas cards show
robins and snow scenes,
happy snowmen scampering cheerully
without fear of boys with flamethrowers,
carol-singers still happy to sing
“Once in Royal”
for the 15,973th time,
lovely country sides from long ago.

a Christmas card
with a bunch of hoodies standing
shivering under a bus shelter
“Happy Chrimbo aiiight”
would not make the front of a card,
yet it’s more realistic given
that we are now in the 21st Century.

It’s difficult to see how relevant
these old fashioned images are
to modern-day folk like us.

But then they all point to an event
even further back in time
– namely the Birth of Christ.

We have to cross oceans of Time
to understand the events
of the original Nativity scene,
especially one without Darth Vader present.

How can an event two thousand years
distant be made relevant to us now?


This is the trouble with our modern world.

You can’t easily compare hoodies with shepherds,
or bank managers with the Magi,
or the manager of Travelodge
with a surly innkeeper with built-in stable.

Precise comparisons don’t exist,
but there are parallels that we can look for,
if we understand the imagery.

According to the Legend,
St Boniface stopped a child being sacrificed
by pagans worshipping a tree
by cutting the tree down.

In its place sprang a fir tree
which St Boniface declared holy,
and this subsequently
became the Christmas tree.

You may believe that legend or you may not.

Seeing that there seem
to be no records of Christmas trees
before the 16th Century,
it makes it seem that it is just a story.

Can we be sure though?

by putting up a Christmas tree
you are constructing a symbol
that points to Jesus as the Saviour of Mankind.

Just as the child was saved
from the pagans by St Boniface,
so has Mankind been saved by Christ.

But you have to get the symbols right.

In recent years
it was thought that
tinsel represented the guts of one’s enemies
strewn across the sacred tree
and the baubles certain other parts
of his body
(use your imagination).

tinsel wasn’t invented until 1610,
and the practice of hanging ribbons
around a tree served purely as decoration,
adding a bit of colour
to the green branches.

Baubles were meant to represent apples,
the fruit of the tree which brings us back
to the story of Adam and Eve.

Remember that Adam and Eve
ate of the fruit
of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
and were banned
from the Garden of Eden.

Christ was born in the world
in order to reverse that sin,
and that is why the baubles
are on the tree to remind us of this.

The fairy on the tree
used to be an archangel,
probably St Gabriel
who announced the Birth of Christ
to Our Lady.


All these symbols
have a place in our homes each Christmas,
and yet we often forget them
or miss them
or sit on them,
or wonder why we bother
when the Fairy lights fizzle
and go out again for the 167th time.

Do you use
the traditional decorations?

Why do you put up what you do?

What meaning is there
in these decorations for you
this Christmas time?