Thursday, October 30, 2014

St Benedict's Priory Salisbury 2014: Keeping the Flag Flying

Sadly, just a short trip this year, but well worth it. This was my first visit as a priestly oblate, but all was in order. I only saw two of the monks this year and it was clear that the community is still doing things even if they are unable to accept new postulants. The prior was attending a conference at Mirfield and Dom Bruce attending a function at the House of Lords.

This left Dom Francis and Dom Kenneth to hold the fort. They have built their new chapel complex in the same vein as the chapel when they moved in. Dom Francis celebrated his golden jubilee in March having professed fifty years ago in Nashdom Abbey. His is a life lived by the Rule and clearly he has thrived from it.

We were joined by a small contingent from St Alban's Romford who are also holding the fort being the only Forward in Faith Parish in their deanery in Chelmsford. This is a situation which I have known well from my experiences in the CofE. Whilst the hierarchy of the Established Church say that all theological positions in the priesthood of women debate should be allowed to flourish, they do not say that they should be enabled to flourish. That is a much different matter.

My own experiences were that, when a Forward in Faith Parish fell into interregnum, the PCC were "encouraged" to drop the resolutions because the bishop had a "wonderful new priest" for them who would only come if the resolutions were dropped. I have even heard tell that some dissenters to the Ordination of Women vote in 1992 were prevented from voting so that the measure could pass. There is a lot of politics in the Established Church and much which has come in from the culture, not from the Divine!

So there we were, Dom Francis the last Nashdom monk, Fr Hingley and his companions in the last Catholic Church in that deanery and myself in the tiny Anglican Catholic Diocese of the United Kingdom.

We share much in common - a rejection of Anglican Calvinism, a love of Benediction and Solemn Evensong and that sense of humour that only Anglo-Catholics possess. Of course, I'm in a different part of the Catholic Church from them and it remains to be seen whether we will be able to accommodate more in our little Anglican Catholic Church which can guarantee Catholic Orders and Apostolic Succession, unlike the CofE.

Of course, we can all be taken over by a sense of nostalgia and dream of the happy days of Fr Patten and his enormous biretta, of the sound of plainchant over the Burnham evenings, of Dom Gregory Dix giving the bishop's grand-daughter a shilling for locking the bishop in her Wendy-house. Of course, it's the now that we have to worry about. For us Anglo-Catholics, it's a case of witness.

We're often criticised for our flamboyance and fretting about the length of lace on albs. People wonder why we bother to wear saturnos and cinctures and maniples and piping. They don't understand that we do so because of the unique colour of our Christianity. Yes, of course it's possible to celebrate Mass with a chipped tin mug for a chalice, but if we have the means to make things a beautiful as possible, then we should.

Flag-flying is important. We priests wear our collars to demonstrate the visibility of the Church in society. We may not always be the best exponents of the Church, but the Church is still there. Catholicism is a highly objective and sensual expression of the Christian Faith. We believe wholeheartedly in the presence of Our Lord with us and we are proud to show it. We are also able to laugh with others (usually at ourselves) and enjoy the sights, sounds and colours which remind us of Emmanuel.

Of course, the world finds us a bit ridiculous, but we laugh and say, "fools for Christ" and pootle on waving our banners and flags, presently in declining numbers and hostile environs. Nonetheless, when the last Anglo-Catholic is laid to rest, the occasion will be a bang, not a whimper!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Flipping the Faith

I'll be having a somewhat short retreat to Salisbury this week. Events have overtaken me this year and rather than spending a working week with the Benedictine Community, a day and two halves will have to suffice. From what I observe in the world, it's been a year of contrasts and tensions. This seems to be playing itself out in the Roman Church quite obviously over the issues in the family.

I must be going through a bit of a Kantian phase (or even Hegelian -though I rather hope not!), rather than keeping true to my scholastic preferences. What is interesting me at the moment is the fact that the dichotomies with which we're presented in life seem to point at something more fascinating.

I've mused upon the reward-punishment problem earlier. Rewards and punishment seem to be the two sides to one coin, but it seems that the coin is of less value than one would normally give it, rather, attributing value to such a coin could very well lead to promulgating a purely materialistic worldview.

This could very well bring us back to another two sided coin of matter versus spirit. This dualism is an age old problem in the Church, falling down on one side or the other forces us into one or other of the heresies that can tear one away from the Church.

The model we must always look to is Christ Himself. In this sense, Christ is the coin of greatest prices for he has the two sides, God and Man, which are distinct but completely inseparable. He is King and Servant, showing us that status is really nothing in the eyes of God. We can see how Christ satirises the whole notion of "higher" and "lower" when he tells us that the first will be last and the last first. He is Priest and Victim showing us that our very lives are sacrifices which are only sanctified by God through our offering ourselves to Him at His prompting for sanctification which can only ever be painful. He is Dead and Alive showing that Life is not just something that flickers into being and then gutters out, but rather our life exists beyond the extremes of birth and death.

It's amazing how we always want to come down on one-side or other. That's how we make our decisions in life, by flipping a coin. Sometimes, however, we fail to see the value of the coin that we're flipping.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Anglicanism and Theseus' Ship

"The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same." — from Theseus by Plutarch ,
Identity is something that we hold very dear, and yet it is something with which we struggle. As the example of Theseus' Ship goes (or, if you prefer, the problem of Trigger's Broom) how can we account for our identity over time. Do we have an identity over time? Seeing that all the cells in our body have been replaced several times from our birth, how can we be sure that we are in fact the same person as we are when we were born?

Aristotelian metaphysics may help if we understand our substance and accidents but, of course, Aristotle's philosophy is not "in vogue" today nor does it solve the problem completely. St Augustine would point the very fragility of who we are, sandwiched between the past which no longer exists and the future which does not yet exist. He did not have recourse to the possibility of viewing the world in four dimensions and thus see our existence as beings in space-time. Whatever our point of view, the Christian must look to the fact that in God "we live and move and have our being". All that we are and all who we are is determined by God alone.

Now, I've been involved in a bit of a discussion with Mr Christopher Little, a newly-made Deacon in the AMiA. Deacon Little is a champion of Classical Anglicanism who is very clearly concerned with the Reformed nature of Anglicansim. He and I do disagree on the nature of what it means to be Anglican: while I argue that "Anglican" is a meaningful adjective from before the Reformation, he would argue that in order to be truly Anglican, it is necessary to embrace the Articles from a Reformed viewpoint. His description of me would be that I am not an Anglican but an English Catholic.

I don't object to being described as an English Catholic, but I do feel that I have some claim to the adjective "Anglican". My orders, for example, were bestowed by Bishop Damien Mead last year. He in turn was consecrated by Bishop Rommie Starks in 2008, and one of Bishop Starks' consecrators (back in 2000) was then Bishop, later ACC Archbishop, Br John-Charles Vockler who was consecrated bishop in 1959 during the days of the orthodoxy of the Anglican Communion and received into the Anglican Catholic Church in 1994. Br John-Charles was Bishop of Polynesia, but also served a time as an assistant bishop in the Church of England. Thus, the Anglican Communion cannot claim that the ACC Diocese of the United Kingdom is without direct links to the Established Church when it was actually orthodox. My point is that I believe that the ACC has at least one point of continuity with the Anglican Church through its bishops, at least until the Church of England ceased to be orthodox and introduced doubt into the validty of the Sacraments that they now claim to distribute.

I'm not using this to convince Deacon Little of my Anglicanism - I doubt that I can given that his idea and my idea of what it means to be Anglican are so diverse - but rather more to demonstrate that our traditions have commonly spun out of that period called the Reformation. My Archbishop, Mark Haverland, has been seen at various inter-Anglican events, most notably at the investiture of Archbishop Foley Beach as primate of ACNA. I cannot comment nor wish to do so about what my Archbishop was doing there save that I am convinced that he was there in the spirit of Christian Charity and with a desire to express the well-wishing and prayers of the Anglican Catholic Church whom he serves as Metropolitan.

However, if I were there, for what reason would it be?

His Grace has indeed written about the fragmented nature of the Anglican identity and has stated quite clearly that he believes that it is necessary for us to adopt the identity of Anglo-Catholicism as what it means to be properly Anglican. Given that the later Anglo-Catholics were Romanisers whose seeking re-union with the Roman Church has produced the Ordinariate, our rejection of the Papal claims must mean that we have to look to the original identity of Anglo-Catholicism as Anglicanism reviewed through Patristic eyes. The Anglican Catholic Church is a Truth-seeking Church and in order to seek the truth faithfully, it must start somewhere. One cannot begin an inquiry without stating the basis of that inquiry. The Continuing Anglican movement is forty years old, the AMiA even younger, but we come with baggage amid the fog of confusion which we have inherited. We are still in early days: while there is much of which we can be, there is much that is still in a state of flux.

If I were primate, and most assuredly I am not and think it statistically impossible that I would ever be so, then I would attend an ACNA investiture out of respect for the common ground out of which the ACNA and the ACC have sprung and to which we claim continuity. I would attend because, though there are many issues over which we disagree both practically and theologically (even seriously so), because I would see in ACNA a serious and heartfelt attempt to seek the same truth which I would be seeking. We might be walking apart, but we might be walking apart in the same direction which can only lead to unification in Christ Jesus. As I say, that is what I would do. However, I am a newly minted priest and not privy to issues involving the polity of my Church. It is not my place to draw any conclusions on matters which don't concern me. I trust His Grace and his leadership, and pray that he may continue to lead us faithfully in the way of Our Lord to Whom I am most sure he is committed.

Deacon Little would claim that his understanding of Anglicanism is also Patristic. I believe him to be sincere about this and would humbly suggest that he has more in common with Anglican Catholics that he might like to think. After all, Protestant is not the opposite of Catholic and I am sure that he would agree that he is much a part of the One Holy Catholic Church as he confesses with me in the Nicene Creed. I am sure that he would reject with me the heresies of the revisionists in ECUSA and the CofE on largely the same grounds, that we look for the same faith from the Source, and have an appreciation for the ritual of the Prayer-book. Again, he and I would differ on the use and authority of the Book of Common Prayer but one can see the tenacity of American Anglicans as they fight for their Anglican identity against a body whose wholesale rejection of the 1928 BCP in favour of a revisionist 1979 BCP. This latter revisionist, heretical attitude of the ECUSA has led to the existence of ACC, ACNA and AMiA as well as other noble Anglican bodies. We have much in common.

As Theseus' Ship shows us, the continuation of identity is a thorny affair. Each continuing Anglican body has had to make a decision in order to know what to continue. We Anglican Catholics believe we have chosen the path as laid out by the Church before the East-West split and that is where we look. This leads us into conflicts and painful decisions yet we seek to walk in the truth and in the tradition that we have recived. Until the smoke clears, we must persevere with the choices that we have made by conscience and in loyalty to the ideals and principles that we have received. These are still early days - a mere 50th part of the lifetime of the Church so far and only God knows what will be.Until then, as Plato says, be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Greasy poles and other humiliations

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

Why on earth would anyone want to climb a greasy pole? There are, apparently, greasy pole climbing competitions around the world, probably in the same places as cheese rolling and dwile flonking. It seems an easy enough concept to understand, try to get to the top of a pole that’s been greased: the one who gets nearest to the top wins! We use the image of the greasy pole to describe the way that some people strive for promotion, power or influence. Look at the boy in the packing room planning his way to becoming CEO of the company. See how he plots every move that he intends to make, and figures out every hurdle he has to jump.

What does he hope to gain?


Our Lord would have seen nothing wrong in seeking leadership in society or in a company. Things need to be in good order: after all, God created order from chaos! He bids us render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, that is, to observe the order of society and the government, but also to render unto God that which is God’s. We know that everything is God’s and of His own Creation do we give Him and that includes ourselves. We obey governments because that’s what God wants us to do.

Christians are to see leadership as a duty and service, not as a privilege and right. Christians are not to see leadership as an opportunity to enforce their own wills upon others.

[PAUSE] Our Lord scolds the scribes and Pharisees for using arbitrary laws to enforce their own power and their own prestige. They command things because they can, not because it’s good. The only reason why they will not allow healing on the Sabbath day is because they command it. When Our Lord confronts them with the sheer emptiness of their commandment, they cannot answer Him. All that awaits the scribes and Pharisees is a humiliating slide down the greasy pole.


Humiliation brings everyone down to the same level, or up to the same level. Humiliation really means being brought to ground level, or indeed up to ground level! God has created each of us to play a part in His creation and this means being grounded in that very Creation. We exist because of Him and for His good pleasure. Any rank or value we put upon things is arbitrary and will pass away when we die. This is because the values that we have belong to us and are not necessarily from God. If we truly seek God’s values, then we must seek the truth about Creation. We might seek to make things holy for ourselves, separating them from others by our own values, but God truly makes things Holy by separating them out for Himself. We are all called to be saints, all called to be holy, but our holiness depends only on God and not on our rank in this life.


Our Lord reminds us that we will be seen for what we really are. If we think we’re anything more than a child of God, then we’re going to be severely disappointed!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Are Anglican Catholics really Anglican?

Edit 13th October 2014: It has come to my attention that there are blogs out there who seem to be reading into this post more than is intended. They state that I imply what they actually infer. They seem to think that I am in some way representative of my Province, despite my disclaimer categorically stating that I am not. They state that I am making statements about the Protestant nature of Anglicanism when the "heresies" I refer to I have deliberately left for the reader to understand. If people wish to read into my posts that which isn't there, then that is their business and I am not going to enter into any debate about it, especially if they are going to be rude, triumphalist and deliberately polemical.

I’ve just been reading this which asks the question about whether the GAFCON churches, the ACNA, and the AMiA are really Anglican. It shows that the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to think that a defining attribute of Anglicanism must reside in being in communion with his office. Of course, the ACNA would disagree with this, as would the continuing Anglican churches. It all sounds just a little bit Papal, doesn’t it? One can only be a Roman Catholic if one is in Communion with the Holy Father. Can one’s identity as a Christian be truly bound up in deference to one man? It has to! It must! That man being Our Lord Jesus Christ – none other! After all. St Paul says:

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Cor iii.1-7)

Questions of our identity are ultimately useless if we treasure our adjectives more than our nouns. My friend Ed Pacht always says that he is a Christian first, a Catholic second and an Anglican third. Of course, one could debate whether one can be a Christian without being a Catholic, but such debates, while seeking clarity and confidence, end up separating people, most often unnecessarily.

What, then, do our adjectives do? We’re taught at school that “nouns are ‘naming’ words”, “verbs are ‘doing’ words” and “adjectives are ‘describing’ words” Adjectives modify our language and are largely based on the colour that our experience discriminates the genus from the species. A skilled translator knows that not only does one have to translate the noun correctly, but also the adjective. Consider the French for “lost property” – “l’objets trouvĂ©s”. One is probably justified in translating “objets” as “property”, though to go from a simple item to a piece of property demonstrates perhaps the human propensity to attribute ownership to things. What one loses, another finds – it’s the same idea but seen from different angles.

What does the adjective “Catholic” do to the noun “Christian”? Well, this is the tricky one because of the shifting nature of language. If one truly follows Christ, then one has to regard His doctrine and His establishment as having the supreme importance and one’s personal view of Christianity must surely be bound up therein. This doctrine cannot change in the light of time or space neither can the sacraments as vehicles of Grace change because every person, past, present and future is of equal worth in the eyes of God – all need His grace, all need His Word. This is the original sense of Catholic; it is inextricably bound up with the visibility of the Church. To be a Catholic means to be seen to be part of the Church as it was, is and will be.

It is fitting, then, that we should always look to the original meanings of words if we are meant to be sharing those words with those who have come before us in order to have communion with those who come after us. Catholic should not them mean “Roman Catholic”, after all, the Orthodox are just as Catholic, but without the Holy Father as a monarch. That is also how we Anglican Catholics see ourselves.

The original meaning of Anglican was simply as an adjective notably used in the 13th century to mean “English” Of course, many Anglicans now disagree with that definition because it has come to acquire Reformation connotations. That is why Anglicanism is often seen to be defined by adherence to the 39 articles or to Protestant confessional formularies.

If that is what Anglicanism has come to mean, then the Anglican Catholic Church is not really Anglican.

Even then, I suspect there are many in the ACC who would disagree with me, such as the reverend Father Robert Hart. The way I see the Anglican Catholic Church is not a concerted attempt to forget the Reformation but to look further back beyond it, rather than as a defining mark of Anglicanism. Others find this a betrayal of the Reformation. Given that there are a lot of Protestant heresies that came out of that turbulent time, the ACC is rather justified in trying to continue Anglicanism across that era as well as the 20th Century. If a rejection of Protestant doctrine means that an Anglican Catholic is not Anglican then the answer should be that they never were Anglican, but rather that they have always been Anglican Catholic.

I would not describe the Anglican Catholic Church as being Anglican. I would describe it as being Anglican Catholic. I do not see the two adjectives which describe my Christianity as being separable, but unified in their intention. True Catholicism is rooted in the visibility of the Church as the distributor of God’s grace and proclaimer of His word. We Anglican Catholics strive to be visible in our Catholicism and do so in a characteristically English way. This does not mean dressing up in fancy robes, though our vestments are part of our expression. Our true visibility MUST be bound up with how we live our lives with other people.

Each Anglican Catholic faces the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel by living it. This means performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that have always been practised by the Church albeit with that English flavour. This is why accusations of not being Anglican don’t actually bother me so much these days. I am not Anglican if it means being in communion with Archbishop Welby and his succession. That communion is not Catholic and I am, so I can’t be in communion with them: we used to understand things the same way, but that understanding is different now. Anglican Catholics understand the original meanings; the Anglican Communion has changed those meanings.

Not being Catholic compromises one’s visibility as a Christian, but then the actions of the Westborough Baptist Church compromises their visibility more. Our Lord says, “by their fruits shall ye know them.” If one’s actions are driving people from the Church, then the fruit of one’s labours is nearer to the wild grape than the cultivated grape. It is by our actions that the world outside the Church interacts with us. Our actions as Christians manifest our identity to an unbelieving world. This is why Christopher Hitchens’ book “God is not Great” really does hit home. People’s view of God is coloured by how we are seen to worship Him.

To live a Christian life is more Catholic than proclaiming that one is Catholic. We can attempt to proclaim with banners and Facebook pages and blogs (mea culpa) that one is Catholic, but these are just so secondary to the task. Self-publicity is far from being the Church’s first priority. The light that we should shine before all men is the light that comes from Christ. It is the light of Tabor, the tongues of fire that God places upon the head of the Confirmed that is meant to shine in our lives. If we want people to see the Church, then they need to see that light – not the light of gaudy advertising! Our actions should speak for themselves and then only speak the Word of God. Only then will we have Christianity in our substance rather than in our appearance.

Are Anglican Catholics actually Anglican? Not in my understanding of a post-Reformation definition. It is of no consequence: we should make sure we are Christians first!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Beauty, Happiness, Mathematics and God

I was struck by a bit of a vision today. By this, I don’t mean that I was thrown to the floor by bright lights, angelic choirs and the glory of the Beatific Vision – I’m not meant for that yet, otherwise it would have happened.

As I sat in the college chapel, my mind conjured up the image of a plane of glass in the chapel floor which raised itself up at an angle. I thought that within the glass was a picture of a cloud as one might find painted onto glass in a stained glass window. As I looked more closely, I could see that it was a galaxy, moving and swirling like a drop of milk in black tea. Of course, this is in perfect keeping with the origin of the word galaxy. It occurred to me that I was being given a window into another dimension, a vision of another multiplicity of worlds beyond the shallow horizons of my own little mind.

I do love looking at astronomical photographs. I still cannot take in that what I’m looking at is not just millions of miles away, but millions of miles in size and millions of years old. The scales are mind-boggling, and yet perhaps we forget that there are a million square millimetres in a square metre. The telescope is capable of giving us windows into the infinite, resolving angles ten-thousandths of a degree wide. Here is William Blake’s infinity in the palm of our hands.
Being a (largely failed) mathematician, my mind is always looking for the structures inherent in Creation. That’s probably high-minded of me and I do confess that praying Psalm 131 is not an easy task. Is it high minded of me to try and comprehend what’s going on? I’m hoping that it isn’t in the proviso that I understand that I will never completely understand what is going on until I have seen God face to face. Even then…

I often wonder what my students find beautiful. For teenage boys, it seems that beauty is an ill-defined affair and perhaps that’s because they lack the language for saying why something Is beautiful. They have not yet refined and honed the senses or the descriptors that will inspire them the most, but they are surely capable of appreciating beauty. In my teens, I remember being struck by the beauty of the solitary church bell and by Italian Renaissance Organ intonations. They certainly transported me beyond my own little world. Yet, I cannot be sure that my school mates had ever had that experience, and I dared not ask them. If they did, then perhaps this beauty was something that was so personal to them that even in the telling it would ruin it for them. Sometimes language destroys a dream rather than brings it into existence.

Beauty has always been something difficult to define, perhaps rightly so if the adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is correct. What is certainly clear is that beauty resonates within the individual like that solitary church bell. I fail to see how it is possible for someone to register beauty without reacting to it on more than just the rational level. The resounding of that bell of beauty allows the senses of our mind to be transported to places beyond our physical senses. There is a sort of happiness here, even when one finds beauty in a sad film like Atonement. There is a happiness in one’s emotion, as if one is feeling pleasure in actually feeling something other than the background level of emotion.

Sometimes language destroys a dream. I don’t find that with mathematics, though. Mathematics doesn’t destroy dreams in my experience, largely because mathematics deals with the necessarily abstract. I’ve challenged some of my students to tell me what algebra is, but find the repeated phrase “it’s maths with letters in it” coming back to bite me. When one realises that algebra is looking at the processes of arithmetic without taking things for granted, one can see some truly wonderful structures coming into play. Algebras allow us to ask the great “what ifs” of arithmetic. What if two times three is not the same as three times two? What would happen to subtraction if we weren’t allowed to have negative numbers? What happens if I allow negative numbers to have square roots?

Algebra answers these questions by producing new algebras, rings, groups, semigroups, division rings, and quandles. Thanks to Descartes, these lead into geometry and topology in which shapes bend and warp, blow up, project and expand in so many ways, even into higher dimensions in which situations make more sense. We understand more about our universe by looking at space and time together. This gives us four dimensions, though we are hard pressed to visualise anything that might be going on in 4D. Tesseracts and hyperspheres are the province of the fiction of Robert Heinlein and his ilk, but that just shows how mathematics yields dreams rather than destroys them.

I know that mathematics passes most people by. I can sympathise as it has passed me by too. There is another old adage, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Mathematically, I fall into the latter category.  I’m not fishing for sympathy here: while I’d like to have progressed further into academic mathematics, I was simply not clever enough to do so. There is no shame in that, and perhaps it does help me appreciate that mathematics is a hard mistress to woo. I have some affinity, then, with those who struggle with the rough terrain that comes before one enters the darksome mathematical jungle. I can lead the curious to the edge of the wild but, if they can go, they must go without me.

Fractions frighten people, and negative numbers really do upset those whose experience of the world is knowing how many beans make five. How many of us know how many beans make minus five? Of course, what may well be going is in effect a category mistake, after all, negative numbers are not numbers that can count how many physical objects there are. They can count how much money someone owes, or what the temperature of liquid nitrogen is – you need a reference point for that, a zero level. However the realisation that, under the same basic rules of arithmetic that everyone knows that minus one times minus one MUST yield positive one is a moment when one can appreciate that mathematics has a strange beauty that doesn’t really intersect this world in ways we would think.

Yet mathematics goes further and gives us a glimpse of the Divine. Those of us who cannot understand how God can exist without physical space or time would do well to know that numbers do just that also. We can determine statements of truth and falsehood about numbers just like we can with physical objects, and so their existence is assured. However, they have no space, nor time. They do not exist in an area of the brain, but are objective in their presence. Numbers really do point the way to God.

Of course, there are those who would read strange numerological significances in Holy Scripture but take them too far. Seven signifies perfection, forty the nature of penitence, three the completion of the loving family. These numerological fancies are just illustrations, just stories to colour our understanding of the world around us. Those who try to force arcane meaning or significance onto numbers are missing the point. This includes physicists who try to impose ridiculous limits on mathematics by meaningless notions like adding up all the positive whole numbers and getting a negative twelfth. Forcing that kind of physical limitation on that which is not physical is as destructive as language is to the dream.

As I look at my students, my worry is that they will seek contentment in the material world. There is nothing wrong with God’s Creation as I said in Sunday’s Sermon, but to look at the world and see everything in terms of clumps of matter and worth and commodity and fashion misses the true beauty that exists in what is really there. Can they see beauty in a muddy puddle or a plastic bag blowing in the wind? If they can, then perhaps our walk together has been fruitful for all of us.