Monday, January 26, 2015

More on Semi-Montanism

So what do I mean by semi-Montanism?

The Montanists in full accepted (according to OrthodoxWiki).
  • The belief that the prophecies of the Montanists superseded and fulfilled the doctrines proclaimed by the Apostles;
  • The encouragement of ecstatic prophesying, contrasting with the more sober and disciplined approach to theology dominant in Orthodox Christianity at the time and since.
  • The view that Christians who fell from grace could not be redeemed, in contrast to the Orthodox Christian view that contrition could lead to a sinner's restoration to the church.
  • The prophets of Montanism did not speak as messengers of God: "Thus saith the Lord," but rather described themselves as possessed by God, and spoke in his person. "I am the Father, the Word, and the Paraclete," said Montanus (Didymus, De Trinitate, III, xli); This possession by a spirit, which spoke while the prophet was incapable of resisting, is described by the spirit of Montanus: "Behold the man is like a lyre, and I art like the plectrum. The man sleeps, and I am awake" (Epiphanius, "Panarion", xlviii, 4).
  • A stronger emphasis on the avoidance of sin and on church discipline than in Orthodox Christianity. They emphasized chastity, including forbidding remarriage.
  • Some of the Montanists were also "Quartodeciman" ("fourteeners"), adhering to the celebration of Pascha on the Hebrew calendar date of 14 Nisan, regardless of what day of the week it landed on. The Orthodox held that Pascha should be commemorated on the Sunday following 14 Nisan. (Trevett 1996:202)
Now the key feature which govern Montanism is that there is some form of super-revelation which supersedes that which the Church has received from the Apostles. Though many people do not follow the full Montanist heresy, they still follow the generating thesis of Montanism in which spirits, powers or dominions exterior to the revelation of God claim the power to modify what the Church has received and thus countermand the traditional interpretation of the Faith by the Holy Fathers of the Church. St Vincent of Lerins gave the Canon by which the Catholic Faith can be discerned and this has been shown to be self-consistent as a general principle.

The Vincentian canon is a very good method by which we can weedle out the Semi-Montanists, i.e. those who believe that the revelation to the Church by Scripture and its Traditional reading by the Church can be subordinated to the Zeitgeist. We can apply that same Vincentian principle to each of the Montanist doctrines stated above which are largely reactions to the time, and have some correspondence with the Donatists given the third point.

I think it fair to say that the Continuing Anglican Churches would charge the Lambeth Communion with Semi-Montanism given that, somehow, a standard practice set up by Our Lord Himself has suddenly become sinful yet with no actual clear point where the sin has entered in. I could be wrong though.

More on Donatism

Following some discussions that I've had with individuals, it's clear that the heresy of Donatism needs a little more definition.

 In 311, the Church sought to consecrate Caecilian as the bishop of Carthage, but one of his consecrators Bishop Felix had been a traditor, one who had complied with the persecuting authorities and had handed his sacred texts over for burning. Felix had been received back into the Church in full orders after doing penance for being a traditor. The Donatists refused to accept the consecration of Caecilian because of the taint of Felix's capitulation. This was defined as a heresy by the Council of Arles and the Donatist Church went into schism and had faded away by the 7th Century.

So,  what is Donatism?

For the charge of Donatism to be leveled against a body, we need:

1) A priest or bishop who was once a heretic and has been received back into the Church.
2) That this priest or bishop has repented of his heresy.
3) That the body refuses to accept sacraments validly confected by said priest or bishop on the grounds of his former heresy.

That is the situation and that is the heresy.

From my former post, it becomes clear that the Continuing Anglican Churches are not Donatist, for:

1) The ordination of women is a symptom of a semi-Montanist Heresy.
2) Supporters of semi-Montanism have not repented.
3) The orders of those bestowed by Montanists are indeed suspect by defect of intention regardless of their recipients.

It is clear that, for the peace of mind of everyone, and for the principle of charity, those coming to Continuing Anglicanism from semi-Montanism should receive conditional ordination and thus remove the doubt coming from their past. If they are coming into Continuing Anglicanism, that doubt would surely be present in the recipients' minds. It has to be remembered that Continuing Anglicans are doing nothing differently from what Anglicans did before democracy started dictating doctrine.

What about those who remain under the CofE's government? The five principles state that the CofE has come to a clear decision, i.e. that it is a semi-Montanist Church. Yet there are those who dissent from this clear decision. Are they therefore members of the CofE? If there are two "integrities" within the CofE, then there is recognition that no repentance is necessary seeing as both integrities are to be allowed to flourish. This does make the first and second conditions to be charged with Donatism null in content. Thus, FiF cannot technically be charged with Donatism either.

Of course, when the CofE repents of its semi-Montanism, then we will be in a much greater position to accept what they do, but it will mean a repentance of their intention that women's ordination is the same as that received by the Catholic Church. If this will happen then there will need to be many conditional ordinations, but it will be for the better.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Collects for the Conversion of St Paul

O God, Who, through th preaching of Thy Apostle St Paul, hast instructed the whole world; grant we beseech Thee, that we this day having his Conversion in remembrance, may by his example attain unto Thee. Through Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, God, throughout all ages world without end. Amen

1549 Prayer book
God, which hast taught the world through the preaching of Thy blessed apostle St Paul; grant, we beseech Thee, that we which have his wonderful conversion in remembrance may follow and fulfill the holy doctrine that he taught. Through.

1662 Prayer book
O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may shew forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This collect has gone through a few revisions over the turbulent reforming of the English Church. We are drawn from using St Paul as an example by which the Light of Our Lord God draws us to Him to focus on our adherence to Holy Doctrine and then finally to being thankful.

Whatever our stripe as Anglicans, we still have the same progression, we see a saint whose life shines with the Love of God which draws us to know more. Once we are able to study what this holy man knew, we find ourselves enlightened more directly by God. Through this we give thanks not only for the revelation that God has shown us, but also for the holy saint through whom God's light was reflected.

The ikonography of our saints is never a static milieu. Their pictures upon which we reflect dance with the light with which they are filled by the Divine Godhead. That light blinds St Paul temporarily until his eyes become accustomed to the Truth and its Divine Substance. That light is open to us, but often we shy away from letting it blind us to the world so that we can see more clearly the Truth that lies beyond.

Collect for the third Sunday after Epiphany

Prayer book

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty to defend us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We are such frail creatures. St Augustine would have us as a bright flash of light in the present sandwiched between the two expanses of darkness called the past and the future. C.S. Lewis in his allegory The Great Divorce  would have us insubstantial but with the potential to become substantial if we accept our infirmity and allow for transformation into that which is substantial.

One of the great temptations is to think that we are untouchable, safe, secure in our lives. Yet, often the reverse consideration raises its head - the usual human propensity for self-paradox. Death is still a great taboo in modern society. There's always a latest health scare, Ebola, CJD, AIDS, et c,, causing much worry and concern. Sometimes the fear of living can prevent us from having a life. Our search for security can kill us more surely by suffocation more surely than the relative unlikelihood of drowning.

The Glory of God is the impact that He has in our lives. Only He has true weight; only He has true substance. It is this very substance that He wishes to share with us in the Holy Eucharist. In praying for help in our infirmity, we lay ourselves open to become more substantial by recognising our own very lack of substance. God says to us, "open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee." If we do, then surely our frailty will disappear, subsumed in Him.

Shaming St Paul?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the feast of the conversion of St Paul 2015

Aren’t Christians supposed to forgive and forget? Here we are, remembering that St Paul was a zealot who was responsible for stirring up hatred and persecution of Christians among the Jews. We can certainly put that into context when we look at Islamic Extremists stirring up hatred against the West. St Paul was one of those.

However, we know St Paul as the Apostle to whom the most writing of the New Testament is attributed. We hold him up as an example of Christianity, and yet we never seem to be able to let his past go. We even celebrate it. Does that mean that, every 25th January in Heaven, St Paul burns with shame about what he used to do?


Probably things don’t quite work like that. Let us be clear, we celebrate the Conversion of St Paul for at least three reasons. First, we celebrate it because it means that one fewer person hates us Christians! Second, we celebrate it because one more person, namely St Paul, was rescued from the clutches of Evil. Third, we celebrate it because it gives hope to the rest of us.

St Paul does continue to refer to his conversion. He recounts it at least twice in the Acts of the Apostles and he himself says to the Church in Corinth: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” To the Church in Galatia, he says, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

It’s clear that St Paul is ashamed of his previous conduct, but rather than wallow in self-pity he uses it to show that He preaches the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, not because he invented it as some people think, but because it was given him to preach by God Himself. It is the fact that he was fundamentally against the Gospel and has been persuaded otherwise that his writings are reliable. This is why he can’t forget his past even though it is quite clear that he has been forgiven.

This poses quite a challenge for us!


Clearly, we are all in the same boat as St Paul. There is much in our lives of which we are ashamed and which cause us pain when we remember them. It is a nice little device of the devil to persuade us that, because we still remember our past sins, they are unforgivable. It’s not true. If we are ashamed of our conduct, that is good news because it means we know right from wrong and we know where God is, because God is perfect goodness.

C.S. Lewis likens shame to a cup of tea. If we dip our finger in it, we scald ourselves, yet if we drink it down, we don’t. Approaching our shame the right way can bring us to better confidence in God. It is God whom we wrong when we sin, yet it is God who does really, truly and thoroughly forgive us.

As St Paul says, if God be for us, who can be against us? Our sin cannot separate us from the love of God if we truly repent of it. What do we really have to be ashamed of?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Donatism, taint and a little bit of paint.

It's amazing how the same old arguments keep coming back because people can't accept that they are flawed. Again, the Liberals who do not understand the Catholic position wish to paint dissenters to their view with the label Donatist as well as Misogynist.

Take this example.

The nub of the argument is here:

Catholic, orthodox theology holds that a bishop’s ability to validly ordain is not affected by possible errors in previous ordinations. 
The Donatist controversy in the early church sought purity in the one ordaining. Donatism is a heresy. The church is clear – the validity of sacramental actions is not dependent on the worthiness of the one administering that action.
It's not hard to spot the non-sequitur.

The question is not whether women are worthy to be ordained or not, but whether they constitute the correct recipient for Holy Orders. The fact of the matter is that absolutely no-one is worthy to be ordained which is why the Donatist view is heretical. The "wickedness" of the minister as the XXVIth Article might say does not invalidate his sacraments, not being a priest in the first place does.

The idea of taint that seems to be posited in the CofE is not easy to understand. For us Catholics, the idea isn't so hard. For us this is not an issue of "taint", it is an issue of intention. Intention is a quintessential part of the confection of a sacrament. We know that the form, matter, recipient, minister and intention have to be in place for the sacrament to be effective and Divinely ordained. As I've (too) often argued, in women's ordination the recipient is defective and the intention is also defective. In true Catholicism, there is no authority given by God to ordain women, thus to say that "the Church intends to ordain a woman" is not a valid intention. Further, if one believes that women "priests" are the same as male priests, then it does actually seem to imply that the intention is "to ordain a man in the same way as one would ordain a woman as the Church intends." But the Church has no authority to ordain a woman, thus there seems to be a defect in the intention of a woman-"ordaining" bishop in ordaining a man. The whole thing has produced at the very best unreliability in the validity of the sacrament. This is a defect, not a taint.

Of course, if a woman-"ordaining" bishop ordains a man, then that does not necessarily mean that the ordination is invalid. Neither does it mean that the ordination is necessarily valid. Given that, outside the mind of God, no ordinations are certain to be valid, the doubt put into the system by a woman-"ordaining" bishop is markedly greater than one who subscribes to the Catholic Faith. A Catholic inside the CofE can only receive the maximum sacramental assurance if his bishop is not consecrated by women-"ordaining" bishops.

Unfortunately for Fr. North, Bishops Webster of Beverly and Warner of Chichester were consecrated by the woman-"ordaining" Archbishop Sentamu. If these are the gentlemen that will consecrate him, then the defect will remain even in his orders.

So, we Catholics are not Donatists despite the Liberals wanting us to be heretics. We're not the ones who changed things! I wonder when Catholics in the CofE and us Continuing Anglicans will not be tainted with liberal paint.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Collect for the Second Sunday After Epiphany

Prayer book and Breviary
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is another of Pope St Gregory's collects. Within it we find that tension between the omnipotent God and His needy children. God knows what we need because He governs all things in Heaven and Earth. Yet we need to recognise our own impotence. Most of the time, we think that we are in control of our lives and that things will go our own way, we will get what we want, and we will rejcet that which we don't want. Yet, on reflection, we know that things don't go that way and when we realise it, then we receive a shock to the system from which it can be difficult to recover.

The "Copernican Revolution" that we are not the centre of the Universe with its loss of control creates within us a cognitive dissonance. It is said that people with low self-esteem perceive that they are not in control of their lives which are played out at another's bidding. The collect contains a tenson between the will of God and the will of Man.

Yet we remember that Our Lord Jesus unified the two wills, Divine and Human, not creating another will, nor by destroying one or the other, but by uniting them in Himself in his double nature. It is in Christ Himself that Human beings are united to God who does provide them with their needs. Our supplications may remind us that we are not in control of this universe, but also that our very selves are dear to God who, though we are undeserving, respects what He has created and seeks to preserve, first at the level of being and will, and then to the unification of that being and will with Himself. There can only be one true supplication from humanity, "Almighty and Everlasting God, give us Thyself!"

Herein is peace, and true peace too.

Communion at Cana

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the second Sunday after the Epiphany 2015.

We know that the first miracle that Our Lord performs is changing water into wine. Given that there are many sick and dying people, and people suffering, why is it that Our Lord should decide not to make His first miracle a miracle of healing but rather this, a seemingly rather frivolous event? After all, it’s not the end of the world if a wedding runs out of wine. It’s incredibly embarrassing for the bride and groom and might make their lives rather socially awkward, but it hardly seems a matter of life and death, does it?


The first thing that this tells us is that God actually cares about what we find important. The fact that His first miracle is a wedding shows that Our Lord sees the love between and man and a woman as being important to God. It is at this wedding that Our Lord gives of His grace and gives us biblical evidence as to why marriage is a true sacrament ordained and sanctioned by God Himself. It matters as much as the relief of the sick and ill, as much as the strengthening of the faithful, as much as the appointment of the disciples, and as much as the pronouncement of God’s forgiveness to the penitent. All of these themes are revealed to us in the Gospel of St John. Here we find five of the seven sacraments.

However we find something much deeper in Our Lord’s first miracle. Wine is not just something which makes a party go with a swing. In turning water into wine, Our Lord is demonstrating that the blood that He sheds at His death is a marriage between human beings and God. It is atonement. The only way that we can be saved from our fallenness is by being joined to God.

There are several little ceremonies that the priest performs when preparing the chalice for Communion. You may notice that He puts wine into the chalice first, then blesses water before putting a drop of that in. Here we think of the wine representing God and the water representing us. The blessing of the water represents our purification so that we might be joined with God. In a Requiem mass for someone who has died, the water is not blessed because the person has died and cannot be blessed any more save by the presence of God Himself.

You might not be able to see because of the priest’s back, but when the host is broken, a small bit of it is placed into the chalice. This shows us that it is through Christ that humanity is united with God because Our Lord is uniquely and inseparably Divine and Human.

This miracle at the Wedding of Cana shows us what Christ will achieve for us. Through His actions, we find true joy, true peace and true love. Our Mass can only provide this for a short time while we live now, but it is a foretaste of what we will be given when we are finally re-united with God Himself.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Church at war and at Trivial Pursuit

What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? (St Luke xiv.31)
Our Lord always has a point. Clearly, not one of us can succeed in an endeavour that is beyond our reach. We know also that Samson slew thousands with the jawbone of an ass. He, of course, was operating under the will of God. With God, nothing is impossible, though one has to interpret that correctly. We’re not talking of the logically impossible such as round squares or the inescapable chasing the uncatchable. We’re talking of potential repetitions of David and Goliath – the big bully being vanquished by the small but righteous soul.

The Church in this present existence is the Church Militant. We are at war and St Paul uses the imagery of armour and of spiritual warfare. The Old Testament is riddled with battles and war, the Apocalypse of St John speaks of the war in Heaven. While Satan can roam the universe with free power, then there will be a struggle for the powers of God to win through. Conflict is, regrettably, inevitable. At the very core of our being, like Jacob, we have to wrestle with God and lose either our hearts to Him or our very souls. Even when, He has our heart, we then have to battle sin, the World and the Devil to keep Him in our hearts. We have no choice.

It is no wonder that cracks appear. They are the wounds of battle. For those in the past, it was physical loss of life through actual battle, or through execution standing up for deeply held beliefs. For us now, those wounds are exhausted spirits and hearts that become embittered with the demands the world places upon us. What we lose now, we lose in the pits of apathy, apostasy and complacency. The fact of the matter is that God is Love and that Love is hard work to the extent of crippling loss or even death.

Of course, the Church battles Satan’s power. It struggles to live throughout its slings and arrows as well as trying to shelter all who come its way. However, the one brilliant weapon which is found in the Devil’s arsenal is that of deceit. One deceit that he broadcasts into the world is that the Church has to be perfect.

An issue of morality or ethics comes up. Both sides of the debate look to the Church to pronounce the word of God, to issue definite, certain and divine proclamation on the matter. A prominent bishop speaks up: “God says X.” And half of the population cry out against him. Another prominent bishop speaks up: “God does not say X”. And the division in the Church begins.

The Church indeed can speak and always does speak infallibly on faith and morals. The deceit of the Devil is that the voice of the Church can only ever be heard through a chosen few, usually wearing mitres. Yet, young men shall have visions and old men dream dreams, and the Holy Innocents without a single word can condemn the ravings of a lunatic king. The Church has received her doctrine from God and from that doctrine she cannot waver even though the culture be against her or be so controlled by her that corruptions enter her walls. It is the voice of the devil that whispers into the ear of every bishop, priest, deacon, deaconess, pastor, lay reader, bible scholar, liturgist, theologian and expert, “you must always at all times speak infallibly!” And then he whispers to every human being, “every member of the Church must at all times speak infallibly!” Thus that wicked spirit tries to prevent any Christian from being a human being as well as any human being from being a Christian.

Scientists now say (but this has been known for so much longer) that stress causes a lack of empathy. With the pressure to be perfect even as Our Lord is perfect and with the Devil’s deceit slithering into our ears, bishops speak without thinking things through, and synods forget their duty to God before the demands of a society also suffering from the same deceit. Simultaneously, other bishops knowing that they can’t be perfect concentrate on trivial issues, and parishes busy themselves with minute battles that they know they can win in order to demonstrate the infallibility of the Church. There seem to be too many Christian know-it-alls who are speaking with too little thought on heavy matters and too much thought on the trivial. I expect that includes me, as well. Mea Culpa.

Christians are simply not allowed to make mistakes by the demands of a society beguiled by materialism and yet hungering deeply for some certainty when material things fail. Society sees Christianity as either squabbling over minutiae or making unfair pronouncements against practices which seem acceptable, or going back on previous dogma and thus appearing arbitrary or hypocritical, all demonstrating that the Church is not what it thought.

Society needs to know the humanity of the Church, that it is soft and vulnerable and, like one carrying the purest gold, always on the verge of toppling. We Christians are sinners, hypocrites, fools, imbeciles, idealists, unfair, simple-minded, close-minded, misogynist, liberal, greedy, power-mad, sexually-obsessed, and broken. In short, we are human beings who, knowing that we are broken, raise our arms to Heaven and cry “Mercy!!” and yet, are given not just mercy but also grace to pick ourselves up and carry on.

The Church has but one battle, to make present the love of Christ and the promise of His Salvation real to all fallen humanity. There is no other battle. We can tilt at little windmills and pronounce on the most trivial matters such as the immorality of Celebrity Big Brother and “The Life of Brian”. We can hide in amongst the ramparts of the castle of Canon Law declaring God’s wrath upon the 9 year-old rape victim who has just aborted twins for the sake of her own health. We can go all guns blazing against the hypocrisy and racism of UKIP. We can constantly snip and snipe at the heretics turning their human image (our image too!) into the image of Asmodeus in our eyes. These are not battles, these are trivial pursuits whispered into our ears by Satan in order to distract us from the Way that is Christ.

If we forget that single, most important battle of suffering and dying for the Love of Christ, then it is no wonder that the Church will lose her humanity. Each and every Christian must pick the battle carefully. It is a battle in which scars are inevitable, in which failure is inevitable, in which pain, misery and sadness are inevitable. And then we can look up from our deplorable depths into the eyes of God who truly loves us, who reaches out His hand, fixes our broken bones, and recognises within us the desire to lose ourselves for Him even as He lost Himself for us. And then we will realise that we never, ever fought alone, and – far from ever being lost – we were always found.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Collect for the First Sunday after the Epiphany

Prayer book and breviary
O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people which call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epiphany season is very much about what God shows us of Himself. It is a season in which we turn our gaze outward from the introspection of Advent before we return that gaze inward for the introspection of Lent. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia and has the sense of turning and realignment. We cannot realign ourselves without first checking to see to what we must realign. Advent's introspection allows us to prepare ourselves for receiving God anew. Advent is very much a clearing away of clutter so that a baby can be born.

Epiphany presents us with the truth of this Holy Child and the truth of His relationship with us. It is a time in which we look to God for how He seeks to reveal Himself to us and to study that Revelation before we seek to understand our failure to live up to the life that He gives us during the time of Lent.

Our Lord gives us the seasons of the year for our own growth and development in the Faith. Now is the time for us to travel to the manger to see Who this baby is, bringing our own gifts with us, paltry though they may be.

Doctoring the doctors?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Sunday in the Octave of Epiphany

[After Solemn announcing of the moveable feast days]

All those dates! Have you remembered them all and put them in your diaries? They’re not as memorable as 1066, 1914 or September 11th, are they? This gives us an interesting question. How do we know that the battle of Hastings occurred in 1066? How do we know it occurred at all? After all, none of us were alive back then: there are no eyewitnesses to tell us.

To know whether an event occurred, we have to look for evidence. We know what happened with September 11th because we remember it, and we agree on our testimony. However for 1066, we need to look for manuscripts and other records such as the Bayeux tapestry. Of course, the battle of Hastings is something that has been handed onto us by our history teachers since it happened.

There is a tendency among people these days to reject what their teachers have told them. They no longer trust in what has been handed to them by their education. That’s not surprising when there are frequent revelations that things may not have happened the way that we have been taught that they happen. Human beings are very good at trying to undermine their own education. Sometimes that’s good when we’ve been taught bad things. But what about when it’s not so obvious?

You will also have noticed that there are many famous academics out to teach against what we believe. Have you seen the slogan that says, “there’s probably no God so get on and enjoy your life.” There are teachers who tell us that God doesn’t exist because Science says so.

Do teachers need to be taught a lesson in what’s true?


At Epiphanytide, we look in the temple and see the great doctors of the temple in Israel being grilled by a twelve year old boy, who asks them complicated questions based on their teaching. This child amazes them with His learning and understanding. It is this child that has been learning about what these men teach and questions it carefully to reveal how much they do know.

If we ask good questions of what we believe, then we can come into a deeper relationship with God. Epiphany is that time when God reveals Himself to mankind to teach and to be questioned so that people can know Him better. God chooses to be with mankind to form a relationship based on trust. This is what a covenant is – it’s a declaration of trust. The covenant between God and us is that we believe Him to be God and to treat Him so, and that He will bring us to Eternal Life in Him away from sin and misery.

As Christians, we are allowed to question what we believe even if that means not finding the answer right away. Sometimes the answer takes a long time. Until that answer comes, and it may not in our lifetime, we must continue to trust God and hold fast onto the Faith which we have received and pass on to our children. God is not asking to be our controller though, ultimately He remains in control: He is asking that He becomes a member of our family so that we can become a member of His.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Collect for the Epiphany

Prayer book and Breviary

O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles: Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

To know by faith is somewhat of a strange idea to many people these days and can lead us into all manner of tricky philosophies. Philosophy is largely fashionable and our understandings of what we can know and what is really there are never still. In fact, what we do in fact know is very nearly nothing. This is because we ourselves are very nearly nothing.

Yet, the letter to the Hebrews tells us that, "faith is the substance of things hoped for , the evidence of things not seen." Human knowledge seems to be dependent on things that can be experienced with the senses, so, if things cannot be directly experienced then doubt can be thrown upon their existence.

God Himself provides the testimony for His existence through His self-revelation. His Epiphany is precisely the medium by which that evidence of things not seen can be conveyed. We are given the opportunity to trust that which can be trusted. We cannot have rock-hard definitive knowledge of God, so we are given a covenant with Him. Faith, hope and love all endure, yet

Faith will vanish into sight;
Hope be emptied in delight;
Love in heaven will shine more bright;
Therefore, give us Love. (Bishop Christopher Wordsworth)

Sunday, January 04, 2015

In the name of the what?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

"I arrest you in the name of the Law."

It's a phrase that seems to have gone out of fashion among the police officers of today. These days, they arrest you and then tel you about the right to remain silent which may harm your defence. Do you notice that it is the "Name of the Law" which gives the policeman the authority to arrest you in the first place? What does that mean, "Name of the Law"? Does the Law have a name?


Perhaps the name of the Law is Bill.

It doesn't seem right that the Law has an actual name, does it? It's not a person like Bill. Cleatly the name of the law indicates the power and hold that the Law has over us. Compare this with, "open in the name of Her Majesty, the Queen!" We understand that better because Her Majesty is a person like we are. She has a name and an authority over us - at least her government has an authority over us.

Of course, St Paul tells us that we must submit to whatever authority is set over us. He knew, as well as we do, that there is a yet greater name!


The Jews hold the name of God so holy that it cannot be spoken. They use the four letters YHWH and say "Adonai" instead. YHWH stand for Yahweh.

Hold fast! If the Jews cannot speak the name of God because it is so holy, should we take care not to say it either? Surely it is a name of power which is far beyond all earthly imagining?

Indeed it is! Yet the birth of God as Man allows us accss to something which is deeply touching. God took the name Jesus to save us. We speak that name, though it is usual for good Christians to bow a little when they use it because it is so precious. Anyone can speak that name, but none may wield its power.

Christians, however, have access to something even deeper than that, Each one of us is called to be an ambassador for Christ and this to speak and act in His name. We are permittedto pray in His name.

Indeed, Our Lord says, "whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do , that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." Sounds wonderful. Yet we knao that just tacking on the phrase "in Jesus' name" to a prayer doesn't mean that we're going to get that Mercedes, or indeed that someone is going to get well again.

The use of the name of Jesus can only be done with the consent of God. Our Lord says also, "many shall come in my name, saying , I am Christ; and shall deceive many."The name of Christ can only be used by people engaged on God's business. This is why the disciples could heal the sick in Jesus' name. To use it in ways for which Our Lord has not authorised us is like a policeman trying to arrest us for being ginger or overweight. It isn't right and it won't work.


The first words of the Mass are "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost". This is God's work and so our Mass has God's approval. You can be sure that you meet with God and call Him by name even as God meets with you and calls you by name,

How does He want you to use His name?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Collects for the Circumcision of Christ

Prayer book
ALMIGHTY God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true Circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Breviary (From the Roman Breviary)
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary, hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been accounted worthy to receive the Author of our life, Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost throughout all ages, world without end. Amen

What has the Breviary collect to do with the Circumcision of Our Lord? It is the same collect that we say after the Alma Redemptoris Mater after Christmass and seems to focus more on the person and intercession of Our Lady than the person of Our Lord.

One must remember that Our Lord is circumcised because He is Jewish of noble Jewish lineage. He is born into the people who worship God and whom God has chosen to be His people. For this reason Christians should seek to call our Jewish brethren brothers and hold them dear. Our record on this is shamefully poor and indeed scandalous.

Our Lord gains His membership of the Jewish race from His Mother and it is by Her faith that He is presented to St Simeon for circumcision so that He might benefit from full membership of that community and find comfort in the Jewish Law. In this little baby, the Law will be fulfilled and given a meaning beyond the confines of the smallness of human thinking but rather establish the New Covenant between Humanity and God. As the ikons show, Our Lady can never  be far from her son.

This circumcision with its first blood is our first encounter with this new covenant. What a fitting way to begin a year!