Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pointed point points

When you ask the question, "how did the universe begin?" you should be able to get a range of really good answers ranging for the scientific (the Big Bang), the religious (God made it), and the etiological (Odin, Vili and Ve built it from the body of Ymir). Of course, the answers are themselves fascinating points of study. The one answer you really don't want to hear is "who cares?"

"Who cares?" is a response that seems to be quite prevalent in Society. What does it really mean? Clearly, for this answer to be given, one really has to have the mindset that the answer has to matter, it has to be something to care about. Since when is "who cares?" the response to the question, "would you like a million pounds?"? (Crikey, my question marks are becoming convoluted! I must have broken so many rules of grammar that my English teacher is quietly weeping into her marking!) The one who answers "who cares?" clearly doesn't care, but it also gives the impression that he thinks that no-one else ought to care either.

Does anyone really care how the universe began? What's the point of knowing?

Clearly, many people do from all sorts of walks of life: that is why there are answers to the question. These folk are still capable of feeling the sense of awe and wonder about the universe around them. Their beliefs may differ, but they still share that sense of thrill at the mysteries and wonder about this thing called being.

Yet, for many others, we should not be wasting our time with such questions: there is no money in them, they are hard work to think about and knowing the answer doesn't affect anything.

Doesn't affect anything?

"Anything" clearly means the individual's subjective universe. If your subjective universe consists only of home, work and the pub, then knowing of galactic superclusters, Einstein's Cosmological Constant, the Origin of the Species, the disputed existence of universals does not affect your universe - at least until the pub is destroyed by radiation from a quasar emanating from a galactic supercluster.
What happens then?

For these individuals, God does not matter, Death does not matter, Dark Matter doesn't... matter (oops), just the price of beer and a good game on the box otherwise there is no point to life. I would be very interested to hear what happens to them when they have their first brush with Death, after all, we're all going to be dead a very long time. To lack the curiosity to ask the big questions in life may not be necessary for living, but it betrays the endeavour of humanity as something more than a biological machine. While I struggle to understand the philosophy of the Material Realist, I am convinced that they too would be dismayed at the level of uninterest that some people seem to show in the bigger picture.

It is true that many people would like the opportunity to look for the bigger picture. These are the folks for whom life is hard and painful. One cannot determine whether the Ontological Argument is logically circular or modally informative if one is working all the hours God sends trying to make ends meet. One cannot do spin geometry when one's mother is on the operating table. One cannot contemplate how a bridge can be built by Hanuman and his monkeys, when one is frantically trying to pull one's baby out from the rubble of what once used to be one's home. The questions that arise from the lamentation of human suffering also deserve answers and theodicies and some form of address if only to do justice to the value of human life.

There are indeed times and places for asking the big questions. The big questions themselves take a lot of sacrifice and effort to answer. Using the intellect requires just as much effort as any physical activity. Maybe there is a point to asking such hard questions, but maybe they are the point in themselves. Maybe the point is precisely that which gives value to human life. If there is no value to human life, then one can probably be justified in taking no pains to think outside one's subjective universe.

To say, "who cares?" dismisses all human endeavour as ultimately worthless and pointless. It reduces the human condition beyond mere biological machinery but to a basic organism of stimulus-response.

Who cares? I care!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Collect for the third Sunday after Easter

Prayer book

ALMIGHTY God, who shewest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's Religion, that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


It is incredibly difficult for human beings not to be in error. We are often off target and distracted by our own blind following of what we think to be the truth. God is certainly transcendent, but we can know of Him better by reflecting upon what He is not, and drawing analogies.

The danger is that we may reflect too much on what God is not, and thus lose what He is, or else may fix ourselves on our analogies past their breaking points. These can lead folk on the paths to atheism or idolatry, We must be prepared to admit that there are times where we can only just sink to our knees and say, "Lord, I am in error. Guide me!"

The central fact of Christ's Religion is very simple: Repent of your sins and you will be forgiven through Christ our Lord and God. Repentance is an activity which must accompany our faith. We have to keep turning, even if that means, at times, we spin faster than a whirligig beetle on a carousel! When that happens, we must focus ourselves on Christ Himself and bind ourselves to Him. This is the true meaning of religion: if we are bound to Christ, then we go where He goes.

Mummy, the vicar said "Lust". What's that?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the third Sunday after Easter

Mention the word “lust” and we Christians seem to go a bit awkward and nervous and try and change the subject. However, it’s interesting to note that the word has rather changed its meaning over time. The words that St Peter is using when he talks of “fleshly lusts” have a much more general meaning. The deadly sin of Lust really is an uncontrolled desire for anything and walks alongside avarice and envy as something that can take over one’s life. While avarice is the uncontrolled desire for things, and envy the uncontrolled desire for things that other people have, lust is more concerned with a desire for pleasure. The Latin word for it is luxuria from which we get the word luxury.

What comes into your mind when you hear the word luxury?


Perhaps you think of lying on a couch of silken sheets while servants feed you grapes, fan you and rub your feet. But then, perhaps you think of a lie-in, a weekend away, a nice piece of cake or a bit of peace and quiet. Perhaps when we think of luxury, we think of little pleasures, nothing big or dramatic.

Surely, though we all have a desire for pleasure. Is that really such a bad thing?


The fact is that God has created this world for us to live in, and He wants us to be happy. However, He doesn’t just want us to be happy for a bit, He wants us to be eternally happy and this means that we simply cannot afford to be completely happy with created things. Things of this world pass away. There is a saying, “after ecstasy, the laundry”, there must always be an end to idle pleasures – the empty chocolate bar wrapper, the plate that now needs washing up, the process of checking out of the hotel and paying the bill. We want this happiness to continue, but it can’t. Everything of this world must pass.

Even Our Lord Jesus has to cope with this. He takes pleasure in living. He eats with people, makes friends, and loves His family. These pleasures end: He gets tired, frustrated, even angry, and we all know about the awful things He goes through before He dies. His earthy mission ends. Our happiness with Him on earth is also limited. “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.”


While we live in this world, we have to hold fast to the reality that whatever we experience must pass away. Whatever you have or desire, this, too, shall pass, even down to our own bodies. They, too, shall pass.

However, Our Lord Himself tells us “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal : For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This is how we repent of the sin of Lust. If Lust is an uncontrolled desire for pleasure, then we need to learn to control our desire for pleasure. We need to remember that any pleasure we have in life is fleeting and that only God is Eternal. If we can make God the central object of our desire, then any other pleasures in life will still be good, but they will be completed by God’s presence in our lives.

St Paul reminds us that greater pleasures await for us. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard , neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

ACC Diocesan Synod 2015: Impressions of smallness

That's how it is supposed to sound, I believe.

This was the anthem our little choir of three sang at the Synod Mass in Bolton this year. It was so good to go up north for once and see the folk who cannot normally come south for the Synod in London. It was also good to see, as always, Fr. Charlie and Fr. Howard, who made us soft southerners very welcome.

What has always impressed me about the ACC is that we do make a valiant attempt to turn even the smallest thing to a Holy purpose. A hall stage can become a sanctuary; a table can become an altar; a keyboard powered with batteries can become a church organ, and three singers can become a cathedral choir. Of course, there are such severe limitations caused by our modest means, however we try our best. What we do would not impress the Ritual Notes purist, but then we're not out to impress the Ritual Notes purist; we are seeking to do that which the Church has always done.

Most of us realize that we're just not that impressive. We're not recognized as a church, nor are we taken seriously. This is bound to happen: we reject innovations in the Established Church and so we are, in turn, rejected. We need to know how that feels if only to remember that what we must reject is heretical doctrine - we must seek never to reject people. Yet, we do our best despite the limitations. Many would think that, because we're in the U.K. we're mega-rich and capable of spending big bucks on all kinds of projects. I can state quite categorically, as the ex-Treasurer of the Diocese, we are poorer than the church mice: church mice at least have a church building to scurry around in.

All of us, in the Diocese, perhaps dream of bigger things. We'd like a classical stone building with all the fittings and priests and servers and choirs capable of singing Alessandro Striggio, but these are unavailable to us and will be for the foreseeable future. In fact, worrying about them is a distraction from our true purpose. And what is that purpose?

As a blogger, I recognize the limitations of my blog. It has a small readership, and a rather small range of posting. I look around and I see other blogs devoted to "setting the record straight" or "exposing the truth" or "replying to those in error". Lots of hot air is being wasted on old arguments, and old arguments are not going to go away, just like old heresies: Montanism is the heresy a la mode, but Arianism, Pelagianism, and even Nestorianism are still very much alive and kicking, even within larger Churches. However, these are distractions from the purpose. The Devil wants us to keep arguing so that we don't notice what is really happening.

While we focus on the latest outrage from the CofE, we miss the latest outrage from ISIS. One, of course, could argue that some churches, by promulgating heresy, are spiritually killing people in this country, whereas ISIS are physically killing people in the Middle East, and I take that point. One has the potential for eternal damnation, the other has the potential to raise one up to the level of the Martyr and so we should focus on the spiritual.

And yet, we do miss the point. Our argument with heresy is, by and large, done thanks to the work of Christians of more than 1000 years ago. We really don't have to argue it any more: we have nailed our colours to the mast. All we have to do is live the orthodox faith and allow God's true light to shine through us. If we concentrate ourselves on seeking God in our lives and building the Church, then we really don't have to worry too much about contributing to 1001 blog arguments. If anything, the constant spiritual defending is off-putting for new Christians. The Gospel, however, commits us to the present suffering of our brethren. There may be spiritual works of mercy, but there are also corporate works of mercy. Online bloggers can tend towards "instructing the ignorant" and "admonishing the sinner" to the exclusion of everything else. I'm very much with Fr. Hart and Harpo Marx on this matter.

This is why I think that the more pressing problem is not the heresy within big churches, but the physical oppression coming from ISIS and its ilk. Hatred is the worst heresy of them all. Those in ISIS are presently spiritually dead and will remain so until they repent of that hatred. While we weep for our Christian Martyrs, we remember the promises of Christ and the hope He gives us. Yet, our tears are more relevant for the ISIS members who, nonetheless precious creatures of God, are destroying their precious selves.

 The spread of hatred being spewed by these Islamic Fundamentalists is sickening and oppressive, and the most important corporate act of mercy here is to ransom the captive with the concomitant act of comforting the afflicted. These works can be done by everyone in small ways and big ways and we need to see how we in our tiny little ways can allow love to spread and conquer hatred.

Our purpose in the Anglican Catholic Church should not be to browbeat those with whom we disagree or waste time trying to defend what we have already defended: we should allow our faith to speak for itself. Our altar cloths may be a bit frayed, our candles a bit wonky and the lace uneven, but we want one thing: that, in the smallness of our being, the powerful love of God shine more radiantly into a world that is dark and doomed. The host is tiny, and yet God in Christ is most powerfully present in that smallness whether we're in a cathedral or a shoebox chapel.

Of course, we want to grow, and that's not easy in a world that takes exception to some of our rigid stances. We can just carry on and be friendly and open and honest and true to ourselves, working both spiritual and corporate works of mercy for our neighbours however far away they may be. It may even be possible that a tiny Church defeats the combined forces of ISIS. Why not? By one man came Death, by one man came the defeat of Death. With man things are impossible, with God all things are possible.

The message of the ACC really is "In Christ, keep calm, and carry on!" That's what we should be living up to!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A mast full of colours

Most hammers have two sides: the first is the side that knocks the nail into the wood; the other side is used to prise an incorrectly hammered nail out of the wood again. Clearly, the latter is rather more difficult. An incorrect nail will seldom come out of the wood without sustaining some damage - or at least in my experience, but then my DIY is about as successful as trying to get a hungry cat to befriend a fat little mouse.

Fr Anthony will no doubt fill in the full significance of nailing one's colours to the mast. Clearly, the intention is to display prominently the message that you're trying to convey AND make the further statement that it's going to take a lot to change your mind. In these days when displaying any degree of certainty is somewhat frowned upon, doing the nailing is a big deal.

On his blog, Fr Anthony makes a comment about how we Christians have a tendency to label ourselves. I've mentioned several times about the "Alphabet Soup" of the Anglican Continuum. I once used that idea to excuse myself from joining the ACC earlier. Of course, at the most basic level, to wit as one seeking union with God the Father in Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost, my label does not matter in the slightest. I am what God declares me to be, after all, God created me so He gets to call the shots. I can only guess about my true self. I think that I have a better idea about who I am than others do, but it's also true that others may know things about me that I don't know about myself. It seems very difficult then for me to label myself as anything with any degree of certainty.

I am a Christian - I'm pretty certain about that because I fulfill the definition of what a Christian is. I believe in the three Creeds and they are Christian Creeds, so that is sufficient to convince me that I am very probably a Christian. Would I nail that statement to the mast? Yes.

What good, then, is having a label which is nailed to the mast? Often we are labelled by others and not always complimentarily. I certainly have been on the receiving end of some interesting labels such as "crackers" and "autistic" and "OCD" which were given to me so that the people using them had some easy excuse for dismissing whatever I had to say. The idea of a label is to bring together things of the same type or category and establish common properties. I used to fulfill the label of bachelor, but now I fulfill the label of husband. I might not be the world's best husband, but I can say with some certainty that I am a husband nonetheless.

Yet, while labels bring us together, they also can tear us apart especially when we disagree as to what the label means. One such label is that of "Anglican". I've mused on this problem a lot over the years. Archbishop Haverland spoke quite some time ago on the matter. His argument is to look carefully at the Elizabethan settlement, and note that this was an attempt to prevent the established church from splintering into diverse factions. The sixteenth century Church of England had to house, evangelicals, Lutherans, high church sacramentarians, Calvinists and Church Papists, all in their own way pulling against each other. On the continent, Protestants were fighting each other and the Roman Catholics too. With a new queen (who was not always in the best of health and who had no children) these factions had to be brought to bear for the sake of the realm. The XXXIX articles were composed in such a way as to allow for some wiggle room and soothe troubled consciences.

The trouble is, that this umbrella has become so broad as, now, it means very little. In the UK, one parish now uses a markedly different liturgy to its neighbor. If lex orandi, lex credendi is true and that the way we pray does reflect our belief, then the Church of England is a collection of separate congregations held together by affiliations which cross dioceses. Some parishes do not recognize another's priest or even bishop as being what they are. Some are not even in communion with their own diocesan bishop. St Cyprian would prove that any sense of being properly catholic, or even a church, is now in the gravest of doubt.

Our Archbishop states that the only way forward is to nail our colours to the mast, i.e. to say clearly what we mean by Anglican and thus establish some bedrock for our expression of Orthodox Christianity. I've said it before that when I refer to myself as an Anglican, I mean that I continue the Catholic faith in the light of the English tradition. Anglican means English and qualifies my sense of Catholicism.

Of course, there will be those who profoundly disagree with this. They will nail their colours to the mast too. Archbishop Robinson of our sister Church, the United Episcopal Church of North America, will roll his eyes at any definition of Anglicanism which does not incorporate the full Book of Common Prayer including the Articles. Yet the fact remains of UECNA's fundamental relationship with the ACC and the Anglican Province of Christ the King in being the original Continuing Anglican Church born of the great lapse of U.S. Episcopal Church in the 1970s. It might be argued that being born of the same fire, the ACC, the UECNA and the APCK have nailed their colours to the same mast. The colours are different, but they all come from the Affirmation of St Louis.

The ACC has chosen to interpret Anglicanism in a particularly Anglo-Catholic way, as opposed to that Romanising Anglican Papalist way which produced the Ordinariate. The ACC has an Anglican Papalism of more orthodox nuances based on the Councils, but these nuances do not lie in accepting the Roman Catholic definition of what a Pope is. UECNA has preferred to retain a confessional Protestant definition. Does that mean that there is disagreement between the two jurisdictions? Of course there is! Does that mean hostility and hatred? No, both jurisdictions have ensured that whatever the disagreements may be, we recognise each other to be deeply related and entwined. After all, "the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you".

However, nailing our colours to the mast does make things clear and it does mean that any desire for unity must be met in the right way. In the ACC, the principles of unity are stated clearly:
As criteria for engaging in formal dialogue with other Churches aimed at achieving full communion or ultimately organic unity, we would see their possession of historic continuity in Catholic Faith and Apostolic Order, including doctrine and discipline faithfully reflecting the canons and decrees of the seven Ecumenical Councils, with recognizably common Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments and Ministry, as the starting point, not the conclusion, of such endeavors. These are the minimum requirements for the recovery of authentic Christian unity, and we have no authority to alter or reduce them. To those who embrace them we will gladly extend the right hand of fellowship.
The fastness of the nails restricts our movement greatly. That's not to say that we do not desire unity, but we have to be realistic, especially as the Continuing Anglican movement has existed only in a tiny blip of time in comparison with the Christian Faith. We may only ever exist as a little anomaly in time, but we do exist now. As Archbishop Haverland says, we even have to be careful when we use the term "Continuing Anglican". Just what are we continuing? If we continue in the same error as the CofE, then we will end up like the CofE or, more likely return to the CofE rather sheepishly. We cannot continue the mistakes, but we can continue what we believe to be the Truth, namely the Catholic Faith as held by the Church in England from the start and read through its lens of history.

To some, the refinement of the definition of Anglicanism is historical revisionism. I don't believe it to be so, given that most popular historians who make that claim see "Catholic" as meaning exclusively "Roman Catholic". While I see Anglicanism as being the former, I would heartily say that it is not the latter. Even through the Reformation, its doctrine and definition are something unique and separate from the continental reform, though of course there were influences. On the whole, whether it is or is not revisionism does not matter: we have made our decision and we stick to it for the love of God,

However, others have made their definition. Some, like the Reformed Episcopal Church, made their decision long ago as a stand against the Anglo-Catholic and Anglican Papalism in the Church of England in the Nineteenth Century. Some still make that definition in reaction against our lack of confessional method. We should not hate, snipe or criticise unjustly those who cannot accept our definition, but seek to let live in generosity of spirit and love and remember that it is entirely possible that we have got it wrong. Our job now is to make the best of that definition and accept the consequences that come with the nailing. The ACC needs to grow and explore its identity, not for the purpose of revelling in that identity to shut people out and crush them with labels, but rather to provide the framework in which the Grace of God might be better extended to the World.

Our nailing is only the scaffolding which will hold up our building of the Church. Once that building is complete, the scaffolding will no longer be needed. We must accept our limitations but build on them, just as the God we worship accepted our limitations when we nailed Him to the cross and built the Way for us out of Death's prison.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Collects for the second Sunday after Easter

Prayer book

ALMIGHTY God, who has given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


O God, who by the humiliation of thy Son didst raise up a fallen world: grant unto thy faithful people perpetual gladness; that those whom thou hast rescued from the peril of everlasting death may have the fruition of eternal joy. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.


We can't really say that Christ sacrificed His Divinity to become human, because that which is already holy cannot be made holy. Humans sacrifice to God to offer something of His back in order to express true worship. The offering is set apart for God and thus made holy in that separation. In offering himself as the sacrifice for our sins, Our Lord Jesus makes his human nature holy.

You have to see that whatever Christ touches, He sanctifies. He is baptised like us, and in being baptised, He sanctifies the waters of Baptism so that everyone may be allowed to receive the regenerative grace of Baptism. He is anointed ready for His death by St Mary Magdalene, and in such an anointing, He sanctifies the Unction for those who are passing from this world.

In offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins upon the altar of the cross, He not only sanctifies the bread of life in the Holy Eucharist, but also sanctifies human nature ready for its salvation. His death means that all humanity can be saved by dying in Him and thus rising in Him. This is how eternal happiness is communicated to the world. This is how the Word of God spreads the Gospel by His free gift of sanctification.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Happiness in a monstrance

For the third time since my ordination, I officiated at the office of Benediction today. I know that there are many Anglicans who will be somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but for me, this office is an opportunity for me to stop and take in more of the Sacred mystery of the Sacrament.

You see, it's all very well coming forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, but you have to take and eat, or take and drink, and then it's gone. Of course, once we have returned to our seats or are engaged in ablutions, one ought to be focusing on what we have just done namely, taken into ourselves the very substance of God. The liturgy is there to draw us ever closer into the Mystery, and to prepare us for leading a new life in a new week with God. However, it's all over in a moment. 

As I stand there beating my chest to "Lord, I am not worthy", the time for me to gaze at the Body of Christ broken for me and for the rest of the world is short. The congregation are waiting for Christ to feed them using my poor little hands. They need their sustenance, but they don't really have time to eat their host and have it. That might sound rather glib and positively scandalous to speak like that about truly holy things, but there is a real point here: do we have enough time to take in as much of the Reality of Christ's presence with us before we receive our Communion and go out into our busy-ness?

For me, Benediction is an opportunity to focus on realities beyond my eyes. I know what my eyes are seeing, but what are the eyes of my soul really seeing? I gaze upon something small, white and round set in the middle of the monstrance, but I know through faith that I am seeing Our Lord Himself. Of course, I can't take in a millionth of the presence of God, but I can take in something. I can comprehend the fact that, as the Church fulfills its side of the New Covenant by doing this in remembrance, Our Lord is being faithful to His side and revealing Himself to be present, though I may not know how.

And this makes me happy, and that is the point of Benediction. 

Benediction is an opportunity of us to be blessed. How many of us know what blessing really is?

"Blessed" is how we translate the Greek word makarios which is beatus in Latin. The sense of the word is that of being happy but the word happy really isn't big enough to give the full sense. The happiness which i meant here is true happiness, the thing for which all human beings ultimately long, a state of contentment and joy which lasts forever, not just for a time. At Benediction, the priest blesses the congregation with the Host. What does this mean?

It's rather beautiful in its simplicity. Humanity can only ever be truly happy when it is reconciled with its Creator. Most of the time, we crave happiness in all kinds of weird and not-so-wonderful places rather than looking for our true happiness in being ourselves by looking to the One Who truly knows who we are and loves us for it. It is He who calls us to repent of our meanderings away from false and empty happinesses which cloy and rot and fall apart. We can only ever be happy when we are perfected, and this means being perfected in God.

At Benediction, we are given a glimpse through a glass darkly of the Way of true happiness. With the eyes of faith, we see our end, completion and perfection.

We are blessed many times in our lives. At the hands of our priests and bishops we receive blessings from Christ acting through the weak and imperfect bodies of His ministers. Again, in this action we are able to see the drawing of Christ as the light of our true happiness. 

Herein lies the mission of the Church. There are many ways outside of the Church in which human beings are blessed. We are blessed with family, friends, houses and homes, children, et c. Some people are not so blessed and it is their unhappiness that we must all share in some way. It is the job of the Church to bring happiness into the lives of others by allowing them the opportunity to see that everlasting joy of God. 

This is such hard work, and we often fall short. So what do we do? We must bless God.

How can we bless God? God is already blessed simply by being himself. He is His own happiness! The fact is that we bless God by affirming that He is precisely that - our happiness, our end, our perfection, our joy. We bless God by affirming what He truly is and express our longing for that Being with us, We are going to fail at making people happy, but that is not our mission. We can only show people where happiness is by the way that we live our lives, even in the times of darkness when it is difficult to see the end. 

Little things help us glimpse that end, though - like monstrances.

Collects for the first Sunday after Easter

Prayer book

ALMIGHTY Father, who has given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may alway serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God; that we who have fulfilled the Paschal Feast, may of thy bounty show forth its effects in our life and actions. Through.

God makes us truly right by transforming our lives if we fulfill our part in the New Covenant. The bread that we eat is unleavened because it does not need to rise. By His very nature, God's purity needs nothing to give it substance for He is the Bread of Life itself. An additions to our bread take substanc away from us. The evil that we do makes holes in our very being. Our wickedness makes us insubstantial and more like a phantom or a shade doomed to fade away into lifelessess.

Our Life is His gift to us, He gives us His grace that we may live for His pleasure and respond to that love He shows us. He gives us Himself to make us like Him so that one day, we may be able to see Him as He really is and know true Love.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

For whom doth the bell toll?

I wonder if you heard the bells rung during the Gloria on Maundy Thursday? It's certainly a bit of a wake-up call if you're not expecting it, but then, that's just what bells are for. They wake us up!

Working in a school, the day is punctuated by the ringing of bells. Of course, they are signals to the teacher and not signals to my students. They might object that since everyone can hear the bell that the bell is their signal to pack away and get ready to go. Yet, it is a matter of good discipline for students to wait until they are told before they move. Like Pavlov's dogs, when a schoolboy hears the bell, his hand instinctively reaches to close the pages on algebraic fractions. Since a schoolboy is in the process of becoming a rational, disciplined individual,  it is good for him to remember that he must remember that he is not at liberty to do as he pleases but must wait to receive instruction. 

It may seem rather an arbitrary and unnecessary piece of ritual, yet that ritual is part of the character forming that differentiates between a spoiled brat and a decent young person. We learn not by being attentive to the bell itself, but what the bell signifies. We have to ask for whom the bell tolls!

For Pavlov's dogs, the bell signifies the imminent arrival of food. Yet, those poor dogs were being treated appallingly (and I do mean appallingly) for Pavlov to reach his conclusion about conditioning. These dogs' mindless association of bell with food demonstrate that lack of thought but mere expectation. Human beings, in their understanding of their condition, ought to seek beyond the signal itself and its associations and see how they fit in with the whole thing rather than become slaves to mindless conditioning. I do not intend for any of my students to become mindless amoebas who live on the principle of stimulus-response. They need to see that the bell is indeed a signal to me to end my lesson and thus wait for me to finish that lesson as appropriate.

However, all this being said, I'd dearly love a watch or clock that would chime the monastic hours for me - not a digital or electronic device, a proper clockwork mechanism. Does this mean that I intend to condition myself to prayer at certain times of day? Have I now just undone my tirade against students who want to leave my lesson as soon as the bell goes?

The bells we use in Church, like the school bell, act as a wake-up call. They draw our attention to the time and thus bring us back to a stark reality that we need to be vigilant. The bells at the Consecration are there to call people's mind to focus on the sacramental presence of God. Just as the bell reminds a schoolboy to look to his teacher for guidance, so does the Church bell wake us to the necessity of looking to God. Too often, we allow our days to go by without such punctuation. We forget to set our alarms to call us to prayer. 

Perhaps I should be posting this on Advent Sunday, the annual wake-up call of the Church to the sleepers. Yet, here at Easter so far away in time and space from Our Lord's awaking from death, we should look to this great one-off, never to be repeated, Resurrection as our wake-up call to look at our lives as they are now and how H would want them to be. We must never become mindless as soon as we hear the bell toll, but allow that bell to ring us to our senses. 

John Donne was right. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee! But can you hear it ringing?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Collect for Easter Day

Prayer book

ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee, that as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without en. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Our Saviour always prevents us. The word has changed its meaning over time, but it literally means "going before". We use the word to mean, "putting obstacles in the way," but this is certainly not what Our Lord does, for He goes before us, opening doors, vanquishing enemies, preparing a place for us.

It is by His grace preventing us that we can come to faith in the first place for it is in His revelation to us that we come to belief in Him. We cannot achieve salvation by our own works, we have to follow the path that Our Lord has trod if we truly desire to be with Him. The path is that of Love itself - a path of toil and uphill struggle, but a path that can only be trod in the first place because we have been loved first. It is our turn to respond to that Love, to take the hand, to walk that path with all its tiral and tribulation. The effect of that trial and tribulation no longer leads to Death, but rather to where He reigns as king for al Eternity!

He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Easter Day 2015

T.S.Eliot reports that, in their journey to see the newborn King, one of the the Magi says, "I have seen birth and death, but had thought they were different."Both birth and death are the great mysteries of the human condition into which human consciousness and intellect cannot probe.From the cavern of the womb we emerge, only after a time to return to the cradle of the grave. One can look at this reality with horror and seek to stave off the moment where our grasp of the world fades into the uncertainty of darkness, and our lives end without respect for labour, happiness, love or justice. "At the end of the game, it all goes back into the box."

Or we can look to a one-off event, never repeated, standing so far away in the mists of Time, and see that, just once, just once in the history of humanity, that a man came back from the Dead simply to show us that in Him humanity can be lifted from the c\res of worrying about life's meaning in the face of the blackness of Death. This is the light that shines in that darkness reminding us that,while we are indeed a long time dead, we can be beyond the distinctions of alive and dead by taking into ourselves the life of God.

This is the ransom paid for our redemption, a ransom paid to the frailty of our human condition which without God cannot but die, so that with God's substance in our bodies we cannot but live. The final temptation we fall into is the temptation to think that we are not loved,that we don't matter, that we are destined for a long time dead.

The tomb is empty. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

An intimate little spectacle?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Easter Day 2015

Why early in the morning?

If you’re going to rise from the dead, why not a big spectacle such as the raising of Lazarus with large crowds? Surely a big stone being rolled out of the way, coupled with a bang and a flash would convince even the hardest atheist that Our Lord has risen from the tomb.

As we’ve been through Lent examining our temptation, the most pressing temptation is to doubt that it’s all true in the first place. The Devil likes to whisper in our ear things like, “how can a man rise from the dead? It’s silly,” or “it’s all a bit of a joke, isn’t it? A monumental misunderstanding.” You can hear people saying just that, can’t you?

Surely, if the Lord were to rise in full view of Pharisees and Romans and all who hate him, there would be no doubt at all that He is precisely Who He has claimed to be all the time – the Son of God. So why not?


Human beings are very good at hardening their hearts. Our Lord Himself warns us that there are those people who “hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” They will always find an excuse not to believe in the Resurrection.

“People don’t rise from the dead.”
“Why not?”
“Because they don’t. It doesn’t happen.”
“How do you know?”
“Because there are no records of people rising from the dead.”
“Aren’t the Gospels a record of someone rising from the dead?”
“They can’t be trusted.”
“Why not?”
“Because people don’t rise from the dead.”
So the argument repeats itself indefinitely.


Yet the fact of the matter is that as many as 500 people saw Jesus after His Death and not as a ghost. It happened! It is an historical fact which is only denied by people whose understanding of the world is limited by the bounds of their own experience.

Yet, only 500 people have seen the Risen Lord, and they went to be with Him a long time ago. So what about us? Don’t we get to see Him?

We do, but not yet. Our Lord reminds us that we must not be faithless, but believe. Human beings are limited in Space and Time, so Jesus Himself is limited by His Humanity. It clearly shouldn’t matter to us that we have to take the word of the Church passed down through two thousand years. It’s the same faith as the apostles receive when they see Our Lord standing in His Risen Glory, the scars on His hands, feet and side as badges of honour. The people of the Church are fallible and frail, but the faith of the Church is strong and infallible.


Our Lord doesn’t need to make the Resurrection bigger. It’s already enormous in that through it, the whole World can be saved. Yet, it is something He only wishes to share with those who want to respond to His love. The Resurrection, then, far from being loud and brash and noisy, becomes intimate, just between friends, a precious secret shared between lovers. That surely says more about the Resurrection than any Noisy Spectacle, doesn’t it?

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Collects for Easter Even

Prayer book

GRANT, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him : and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection ; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Pour forth upon us, O Lord, the spirit of Thy love, that, by Thy loving kindness, Thou mayest make to be of one mind those whom Thou hast satisfied with the Paschal Sacraments. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen

Baptism seems to be relegated in the folk memory to a celebration of the life of a newborn baby. A simple splash of water and then the beer and wine can be opened. How many times do we fail to look beyond the outward sign and seek the invisible grace?

When we are baptised, we die. As our Lord sanctified the waters of Baptism by being baptised Himself even though He was without sin, he also sanctified the oil of Holy Unction when St Mary Magdalene anointed Him for His death. It is in His death that we die to sin, that our tendency to sin ceases to draw us inexorably to death, and that in the midst of death we are in life with the water of life welling up within us.

We lie with God in the tomb, waiting for that moment of Resurrection, for the first breath to return to His lifeless body, for the death of death itself as an enemy to be feared but rather the passage to everlasting joy in the punctured hands of the One Who was dead but is no longer so.

Holy Saturday 2015

The powers-that-be got it so wrong.

They thought He wanted to destroy their authority. He wants them to have authority in Him.
They thought He wanted to ruin their lives. He wants them to live more fully.
They thought He would make them look silly. He wants them not to have to worry about trivialities.
They thought He would undermine their teaching. He wants them to continue His teaching but with love and generosity rather than power and arbitrary ruling.
They thought He would denounce the Law. He wants to fulfill the Law and give it the means to bring people to Him.
They thought He would die...

Friday, April 03, 2015

Collects for Good Friday

Prayer book

ALMIGHTY God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

 ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 O MERCIFUL God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

There are no collects from the Breviary since, for the whole of the Triduum, the drama is continuous and the offices begin on Maundy Thursday and end at None on Easter Even. The Divine Office becomes one long observation in the heart of the Passion and Death of Our Lord.

In these collects we see again the theme of the desire of Love to bring the people of God together. One might feel scandalised at the "political incorrectness" of the third collect, especially with the archaic terminology for the followers of Islam. However, why Jews, Moslems and Heretics?

The fact of the matter is that Jews, Moslems and Heretics are our brothers. They are our brothers in Abraham and they are our brothers in our humanity. We cannot dare forget them and we cannot dare dismiss them. Their salvation matters to us - it MUST matter to us if we are to say that we have any ounce of love within us. Love seeks to bind us in confraternity, not consign the other to Hell. We believe them to be wrong, mistaken, holding to a falsehood or not embracing the fulness of the truth, They will say the same about us. One fact remains, each one of us, no matter what we believe, is a sinner, riddled with evil and in danger of Eternal Death.

Having a belief does separate people, and that seems to go against Love. Love rejoices only in the truth and believing that one is right can only work if we believe in Love and that desire of Love to reach out even to those who do not believe as we do, and remember that we share the same flesh and blood. In believing in the truth of the Catholic Faith, we pray that those who do not hold it may indeed hold it, even as we ourselves seek to grow our faith by serving God in His Church according to the vocations that we have received.

Today, we see the vocation of Our Lord and Saviour fulfilled in agony upon a cross. We see His skin torn, His hands ripped, His feet split, His side pierced, and His precious blood spilled for each and every one of us regardless of who we are and what we believe. However, it is only in Christ that this Death has any point, has any lasting effect. It is only through the death upon the cross that the Church can carry people to Salvation as it plots its course through the wounds of Christ. It is fitting, then, that we pray for all people to join us on the same course.

Holy Week 2015, The Five Sorrowful Mysteries: The Crucifixion

The moment we stand up for something, we are knocked back down again in the hope that we willnot dare get up again. The world seeks to extinguish all light but its own garish, neon flickering in the darkness.

Darkness covers the land. Darkness covers the hearts of the lovers of Jesus. Darkness covers the Holy eyes.

The Mystery here is "Why?" The Answer is "Love."

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Holy Week 2015, The Five Sorrowful Mysteries:The Carrying of the Cross

The moment we stand up for something, we are given heavy burdens to bear. Like Pharaoh, the world would seek to prevent the worship of God by giving His children a heavier burden to carry in order to distract their purpose, sap their strength, and crush their resolve.

Our Lord has received His sentence and must carry the instrument of His own death upon his bruised and bloody shoulders. It is here that the powers-that-be seek to demonstrate that the burden of going against their authority is too great a burden for any man to bear. The weight of the world will crush all who dare to oppose its might.

The Mystery is that the yoke of Our Lord is easy and His burden is light. He has made the carrying of our crosses bearable by shouldering them with us. Should we fall, He is there to help us if we allow Him to do so. The sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us. The burden of proof is on those who would say that our existence is empty and doomed to darkness. With God it is light in more senses of the word than one.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Holy Week 2015, The Five Sorrowful Mysteries: The Crowning with Thorns

The moment we stand up for something, we find ourselves mocked and ridiculed. Our arguments are turned into straw men, parodied, and held up for scorn.

Our Lord's Kingship is treated in precisely this fashion. He is not the King of Heaven, He is merely King of the Jews, an empty title for Israel is under Roman rule; an empty title for Herod holds that privilege; an empty title for none of rhe civil authorities would see that in an itinerant preacher; an empty title for this is not the Kingship He claims.

The straw man is decorated with thorns and reeds to demonstrate His lack of substance and credibility to the world. The teaching of  a fool does not need to be refuted, just ignored, and what greater fool than one who would seek to make fools out of the wise men of the world by pointing out their misreading of the Holy Scriptures?

The Mystery here is that the "straw man" has more substance than any who dress Him up and parade Him in His fragility. It is a Mystery in which we partake when we refuse to rest with appearances and seek the love that lies beneath the thorns, purple robe, spittle and bruise. We too must be laughed at for our belief because if the world were to listen, it would stumble and fall exposing its true lack of substance to all.