Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Another thought for another day - SS Peter and Paul's.

Here's another wee reflection I got sent:
 "In a search for God and a search for self, I always end up coming home. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, when asked by Glenda what she learned on her journey, replied, "I learned that if I ever lose my heart's desire again, I won't go looking past my own back-yard because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." Dorothy's search for the wizard ended in the discovery that he was only a man behind a curtain, with all the needs and frailties that she, herself, had.

I can make my journey endless by seeking God or self outside of me in people, places and things, or I can shorten it by turning inward and looking for them where I am most likely to find them. Exactly how I get there is of little import. Ultimately the path will fade away behind me, anyway. It is the being there that matters; my willingness to know that my search begins and ends in the same place, within me.

I am the man behind and in front of the curtain.

This is the grand atonement, the being in touch.  D. H. Lawrence"

Next to knowledge of God, knowledge of self is the key said Herbert Hamilton Kelly, founder of the Society of the Sacred Mission  (better known as the Kelham Fathers).  Actually, neither is possible without the other. Only when we know the reality of God do we finally realise that we ain't him/her/it!  Only then can we live life as it ought to be for us - the life we are called to and promised in Baptism.  St Peter and St Paul knew this: both were stripped of their self delusion of controlling their world - Peter in the courtyard when he betrayed Christ, Paul on the road to Damascus when he encountered the reality of God in Christ

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Know Thyself.

I get sent a "Thought for the Day" by an on-line support group for addicts which sometimes makes me think.  This recent offering certainly did:

"Getting to know myself is my most rewarding and powerful adventure, my God story. It is a day-to-day task, it does not happen once and for all because the self evolves. Today I will try to get out of my own way and allow the deeper pulse of life and love and spiritual energy to flow through me. I often attempt to rid my personality of what I perceive to be undesirable aspects, to get them out of me once and for all. But today I wonder if rather than get rid of parts of myself, perhaps I need to learn to work with these troublesome areas and reintegrate them in a new way. It need not be my goal today to get rid of pieces of myself I dislike, but instead to work with them and transform them into something better through attention, care, self-honesty and self-forgiveness. I get more done with a loving and caring attitude toward others - why not try to be loving and caring with myself?"

There is a strong purgative tradition in some Christian spirituality's - spiritual growth comes through rooting out the dark spots in the soul.  But that can sometimes be either self-destructive or deeply traumatising.  Especially if you have deep within yourself elements which clash with the common vision of what it is to be "a Christian".Flogging things into submission or cutting out the canker both involve a level of spiritual violence that can leave scars.  This more developmental approach strikes me as being potentially more fruitful.  of course it will never be pain free - self-knowledge and self-love come at a cost and with tears.  But they might be tears of joy and relief, rather than pain and lament.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Once a squaddie...

Restoring Beauty in the Liturgy
always a squaddie.  Not that I have ever been a member of HM Forces.  But it was back to the Ecclesiastical ranks as a 2nd Acolyte at St Michael's this morning due to a server shortage. I think the last time I did this was back in 1993 prior to leaving Coates Hall.  It's surprising how quickly things come back and I think I was reasonably competent (which, given that St Michael's is probably one of the most precise and well drilled liturgical shops in the country, is like saying I'd do OK on Horseguards Parade with the Woodentops had I been a squaddie! And tall enough to join the Scots Guards.  Which I'm not - I have the build of a Poison Dwarf from the Cameronians (now defunct) or my local Regiment the Black Watch.  And all whilst being observed by the Rector designate from the choir gallery.

It's odd to thank that my life which has been going forwards in the last year or 2 has achieved this by going backwards - from incumbent to Assistant Priest, by recovering my diaconate without a dog collar in Support Work.  Still, it's no bad thing for the Priest Director of the Edinburgh Guild of Servers (moi!) to go back into the ranks and show he can still bash a square as well as any other platoon member:-)

Friday, 24 June 2011

St John the Baptist's Day


It's John the Baptist's birthday today, hence the Caravaggio above, which Rachel and I saw in the Rembrandt's House museum in Amsterdam on it's 1st public outing from the private collection where it normally lives.  I went to see Mum, visited Dad's grave with her and then we went out for a Spanish meal (Tortilla (that's a tattie   omelette) for a starter, followed by Arroz Valenciana (chicken & bacon risotto, only Spanish rather than Eyetie) for me. Mum went for the patatas with garlic mayo and then the Hoose penne).  Yes, I know Cowdenbeath isn't where you'd expect any cuisine less commonplace than a chippy, a Curry House or a Chinese, but hey we are getting better.  We bumped into the big sister of one of my best mates at High School and chatted.  Kevin is (evidently) bald, married and living in Angus.I intend to avoid replicating 2 out of those 3!  Happy Baptiser's birthday!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A further note on Corpus Christi.

"The question whether soul and body are identical, therefore, is as superfluous as to ask whether wax and the shape imprinted on it are identical, or, in general whether the material of a thing is identical with the thing of which it is the material. "Is" and "one" have various meanings, but in their most legitimate meaning they connote the fully actual character of a thing."  Aristotle

Actually, this helps me to understand (or rather to clarify my own understanding of what happens at the Eucharist when the bread and wine are consecrated). Is the Sacrament the true Body of Chrisy? Answer: the bread and and wine AND the fleshly body TOGETHER are the actual body.  They are linked in the mystery that is sacrament and I go very Orthodox on that: 

"In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Eucharistic celebration is known as the Divine Liturgy and is believed to impart the actual Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful. In the act of communion, the entire Church—past, present, and even future—is united in eternity. In Orthodox Eucharistic theology, although many separate Divine Liturgies may be celebrated, there is only one Bread and one Cup throughout all the world and throughout all time.

The most perfect expression of the Eucharistic unity of the church is found in the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (a Liturgy at which a bishop is the chief celebrant), for as St. Ignatius of Antioch stated, where the bishop is, surrounded by his clergy and faithful, there is the church in all of her fullness.

The Anaphora (Eucharistic prayer) contains an anamnesis (lit. "making present") which not only recounts the historical facts of Jesus' death and resurrection, but actually makes them present, forming an undivided link to the unique event on Calvary. The Anaphora ends with an Epiclesis ("calling down from on high") during which the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to come and "change" the Gifts (elements of bread and wine) into the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Orthodox theology does not make use of the term "transubstantiation" to systematically describe how the Gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ; rather, they state that it is a Sacred Mystery, and prefer to use only the word "change". The Orthodox do not link the moment of transformation of the Gifts to the Words of Institution, or indeed to any one particular moment. They merely affirm that the change is completed at the Epiclesis."

And also: 

""Objective reality, but pious silence about technicalities" is the view of all the ancient Churches of the East, including the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Catholic Churches) and the Assyrian Church of the East as well as perhaps most Anglicans and Lutherans. These, while agreeing with the Catholic belief that the sacrament is not merely bread and wine but truly the body and blood of Christ, and having historically employed the "substance" and "accidents" terminology to explain what is changed in the transformation, usually avoid this terminology, lest they seem to scrutinize the technicalities of the manner in which the transformation occurs."

This passage by the great Alexander Schmemann sums it up for me:
"For the Eucharist, we have said, is a passage, a procession leading the Church into "heaven," into her fulfillment as the Kingdom of God. And it is precisely the reality of this passage into the Eschaton that conditions the transformation of our offering — bread and wine — into the new food of the new creation, of our meal into the Messianic Banquet and the Koinonia of the Holy Spirit. Thus, for example, the coming together of Christians on the Lord’s Day, their visible unity "sealed" by the priest ("ecclesia in episcopo and episcopus in ecclesia") is indeed the beginning of the sacrament, the "gathering into the Church." And the entrance is not a symbolical representation of Christ going to preach but the real entrance — the beginning of the Church’s ascension to the Throne of God, made possible, inaugurated by the ascension of Christ’s Humanity. The offertory — the solemn transfer of bread and wine to the altar is again not the symbol of Christ’s burial (or of His entrance into Jerusalem) but a real sacrifice — the transfer of our lives and bodies and of the whole "matter" of the whole creation into heaven, their integration in the unique and all-embracing sacrifice of all sacrifices, that of Christ. The prosphora (offering) makes possible the anaphora — the lifting up of the Church, her eschatological fulfillment by the Eucharist. For Eucharist — "thanksgiving" — is indeed the very content of the redeemed life, the very reality of the Kingdom as "joy and peace in the Holy Spirit," the end and the fulfillment of our ascension into heaven. Therefore, the Eucharist is consecration and the Fathers called both the prayer of consecration and the consecrated gifts "Eucharist." The insistence by the Orthodox on the epiclesis is nothing else, in its ultimate meaning, but the affirmation that the consecration, i.e., the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, takes place in the "new eon" of the Holy Spirit. Our earthly food becomes the Body and Blood of Christ because it has been assumed, accepted, lifted up into the "age to come," where Christ is indeed the very life, the very food of all life and the Church is His Body, "the fullness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). It is there, finally, that we partake of the food of immortality, are made participants of the Messianic Banquet, of the New Paschaleitourgia" which eternally transforms the Church into what she is, makes her the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit." (from "Theology and Eucharist", St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4, Winter 1961, pp. 10-23

Corpus Christi


Yes, tonight we have one of those simple Gospel services for which St Michael's is renowned!  And to explain it a bit, here's some theology from Wikipedia with the bits that tick boxes for me highlighted:

"In Anglican theology, a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. In the Eucharist, the outward and visible sign is that of bread and wine, while the inward and spiritual grace is that of the Body and Blood of Christ. The classic Anglican aphorism with regard to the debate on the Eucharist is the poem by John Donne (1572–1631): "He was the Word that spake it; He took the bread and brake it; And what that Word did make it; I do believe and take it" (Divine Poems. On the Sacrament).

Anglicans generally believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, but the specifics of that belief range from transubstantiation, sometimes with Eucharistic adoration (mainly Anglo-Catholics or High-Church Anglicans), to something akin to a belief in a "pneumatic" presence (many Broad-Church Anglicans). A small minority reject the doctrine of the Real Presence altogether (Mainly Low-Church Anglicans). The oldest Anglican devotional society, the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, was founded largely to promote and re-affirm belief in the real presence amongst Anglicans.

The 39 Articles argue that the doctrine of transubstantiation, as understood by those who drew up the text, overthrows the nature of a sacrament as an outward, visible sign that conveys an inward, spiritual grace. For some Anglicans, whose mysticism is intensely incarnational, it is vital that God has used the mundane and temporal as a means of giving people access to the transcendent and eternal. They consider the presence to belong to the realm of spirit and eternity, and it is not about corporeal-fleshiness, which is not to say that they accept only a "pneumatic" presence. Instead, they strongly argue to be content to allow the mystery to remain a mystery. They bristle at the idea that one material substance gets substituted for another. (Roman Catholic doctrine insists that the material substance, being part of what is open to the senses, is in no way altered, and that the philosophical-sense substance or inner reality is converted into that of the body and blood of Christ, not substituted by it.) As some Anglican divines have stated: "It may not be about a change of substance, but it is about a substantial change."

From some Anglican perspectives the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist does not imply that Jesus Christ is present materially or locally. This is in accord with the definition of the Roman Catholic Church, as expressed, for instance by St. Thomas Aquinas, who, while saying that the whole Christ is present in the sacrament, also said that this presence was not "as in a place". Real does not mean material: the lack of the latter does not imply the absence of the former. The Eucharist is not intrinsic to Christ as a body part is to a body, but extrinsic as His instrument to convey Divine Grace. Some Anglicans see this understanding as compatible with different theories of Christ's Presence, transubstantiation, consubstantiation or virtualism, without getting involved in the mechanics of 'change' or trying to explain a mystery of God's own doing.

Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians participating in an Anglican/Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission declared that they had "reached substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist".

So rejoice today in the gift of the Blessed Sacrament:

"We are now in the presence of the infinite majesty of God, who was once pleased, for love of us, to come down from heaven and become Man on earth, and to die on a cross to save us; and is now in the Blessed Sacrament, to listen to our prayers and grant us the graces we ask of him.

I adore you, O Jesus, true God and true Man, here present in the Holy Eucharist, humbly kneeling before you and united in spirit with all the faithful on earth and all the blessed in heaven. In deepest gratitude for so great a blessing, I love you, my Jesus, with my whole heart, for you are all perfect and all worthy of love.

Give me grace nevermore in any way to offend you, and grant that, being refreshed by your Eucharistic presence here on earth, I may be found worthy to come to the enjoyment with Mary of your eternal and ever-blessed presence in heaven. Amen.

I believe that you, O Jesus, are in the Most Blessed Sacrament! I love you and desire you! Come into my heart. I embrace you. O never leave me! May the burning and most sweet power of your love, O Lord Jesus Christ, absorb my mind, that I may die through love of your love, who was pleased to die through love of my love. Amen."

St Francis of Assisi

Monday, 20 June 2011

NSM=No Stopping Moving

Yesterday was singularly peripatetic.  I was on the 8:04 from Haymarket to go and cover a service in sunny (not) Dumbarton.  Even with a change on to the low level train at Queen Street, I was there by 10am.  Mattins was said "en train", as was the Midday Office!  A thoroughly enjoyable modern Mass (despite the Graham Kendrick ditties) was had, complete with the traditional heckling of the "Edinb***ers" by the Weegies during the notices.  I said I wasn't taking offence because "Ah'm frae Fife!".  And impersonated Karl Barth singing during the sermon - don't ask!

Back to barracks and some cooking, then off to Old St Paul's for Evensong and Benediction.  The office was choral indeed - just the choir because the Curate slept in!  He's obviously getting into African time in preparation for his move to South Africa!  The evening ended with some party to raise funds for music therapy for traumatised Bosnian children.  A busy but fun day.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Well matched.

It's funny how things are with people sometimes, isn't it?  The Memsahib was up for a day or two and I was a bit grumpy on arrival (moving flat into the new "annexe" of Emmaus House had me narky) - not at her, but with the new rooms!  We did a bit of shopping (I have a new T-Shirt, she has a new necklace) watched "Gnomeo and Juliet" on DVD (Elton John songs, Shakespeare references and Ozzy Osbourne and Dolly Parton too!  A good fillum!) and toddled off to watched "Potiche" at the Cameo - I now understand why the Frenchies rate Catherine Denueve (just don't ask your mother what she did in the 50's is all I'd say!).  However, herself noted that when either of us is grumpy (and we both are from time to time), it's never with each other but about summat else.  either we are singularly compatible or we haven't lived together long enough to annoy each other!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

St Barnabas's Day


Bountiful God, giver of all gifts,
who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas
and gave him grace to encourage others:
help us, by his example,
to be generous in our judgements
and unselfish in our service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. AMEN.

The blessed apostle, on whose festa I was ordained Deacon 18 years ago, is given as the source of some funny ideas as this section from the "Epistle of Barnabas" attests:

"Barnabas 10:6-8 Moreover thou shalt not eat the hare. Why so? Thou shalt not be found a corrupter of boys, nor shalt thou become like such persons; for the hare gaineth one passage in the body every year; for according to the number of years it lives it has just so many orifices. Again, neither shalt thou eat the hyena; thou shalt not, saith He, become an adulterer or a fornicator, neither shalt thou resemble such persons. Why so? Because this animal changeth its nature year by year, and becometh at one time male and at another female. Moreover He hath hated the weasel also and with good reason. Thou shalt not, saith He, become such as those men of whom we hear as working iniquity with their mouth for uncleanness, neither shalt thou cleave unto impure women who work iniquity with their mouth. For this animal conceiveth with its mouth." (JB Lightfoot's translation)

Mad patristic metaphysics and dodgy biology are not really what I see as the  defining hallmarks of this good and holy saint. Grace, the gift of helping others to grow closer to god and a willingness to serve humbly for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom are.  I shall ignore the ancient loopiness others credited him with and honour the man in Acts.

Tertullian and other early Western theologians regarded Barnabas as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Which may have been the early Roman tradition, which Tertullian usually follows.  According to Photius (Quaest. in Amphil., 123), Barnabas wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Most modern scholars go for St Luke.

He is also traditionally associated with the Epistle of Barnabas, although modern scholars think it more likely that it was written in Alexandria in the 130s. The 6th century Decretum Gelasianum includes a Gospel of Barnabas amongst works condemned as apocryphal; but no certain text or quotation from this work has been identified.  Another book using that same title, the "Gospel of Barnabas", survives in two post-medieval manuscripts in Italian and Spanish. Contrary to the canonical Christian Gospels, and in accordance with the Islamic view of Jesus, this later states that Jesus was not the son of God, but a prophet and messenger. The book also says Jesus rose alive into Heaven without having been crucified. Allegedly, it also mentions by name, the Comforter, as Mohammad.

Happy St Barnaby's Day !

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Accidents can happen

...and very nearly did this morning.  It is NEVER a good idea to give the thurible known as "Big Aggie" to a wee celebrant!!!  Luckily, I was trained on the "Diocesan Bucket" at St Ninian's Pollokshields and can handle the big beggar!  The sermon seemed to go OK, but the stand in organist chose what I can only describe as the only dirge tune in the hymnal for "At the Name of Jesus".  It meant to be a real "Can Belto" hymn to send the punters out on a high.  We got a mimsy, insipid piece of mush fit only for aged spinsters and woolly minded pantheists (lay or ordained).  "Bore it up triumphant" - mair like "bored it out of triumph".  Still it was quite fun.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Critical Wit

This splendid parody from the Anglican Cyber Ordinariate amused me:

"I am the very model of the focus of great unity
I say who is to be a bishop vis-à-vis who's not to be
And when four-thirty's come and gone with tea and crumpets for each one
I read a little Johnny Donne and give thanks for impunity

I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters theological
With books and thoughts from Genesis to Greek eschatalogical
You'll never find a brighter mind just knocking 'round and killing time
The Pauline corpus whole is mine - that's why I'm Christological

Yet even with so fine a grasp on life-behind philosophy
I'll write a poem, make a vid, and burn it all to DVD
I've yet to have a thought that wasn't captured without modesty
And posted up to interwebs in matters most postmodernly

This purple cassock hides a frame that's wracked with years of self-regret
Perhaps I'd show you after ten, but not until just then, you bet
I'd like to quote 'The Body's Grace' and get along with homophiles
But unity comes with a price and Lambeth is my domicile

Because the Thames, so fast and deep, so easily o'erflows its banks
And we have all these partnerships the world around, and we give thanks
To God the Father in whose name we obfuscate and place the blame
And dare not speak the love whose fame incites us all to spank the Yanks

Who even now would like to say that what they said and what they meant
Were justice-born and justice-done and no great cause for gross lament
When some elect and some consent, it's democratic government
So let's get on our knees, repent, and sign up for the Covenant

Yet there's a place for each and all at God's communion table
And I am called an Instrument to say that we are able
If we could only change the tide and Unity could take a ride
And Faith and Order lay aside ... Perhaps it's just a fable"
Wit is perhaps the most potent weapon against the bully or the egoist.  It is a shame that it seems to be necessary to use it against the ++ABC. But twas ever thus.  Ever since the wonderful Dom Gregory Dix OSB replied to the question "Don't you trust the Bench of Bishops?" with the observation that Scripture tells us not to put our trust in Princes - even princes of the Church and noted that the sign of a bishop was a crook and that of an Archbishop a double cross (Oww!), the Episcopate have been fair game for satiric wit on their words and deeds.  Of course, these days Dom Gregory would I suspect have been part of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.  ++ Rowan can console himself that Robert Runcie was lampooned as a puppet by Spitting Image and he hasn't had to endure that.

Friday, 3 June 2011

A thought on meditation and reflection.

From a slightly unexpected source:

"You do not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait. Be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, and it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."  Franz Kafka

Quite as good as  Anthony De Mello or Mother Theresa. And beautifully succinct!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Ascension Day


Here's a wee thought for Ascension Day:

"Some part of us is always in the process of healing... the condition of health is not a static state of perfect wellness; it is... a condition of ongoing healing. For example, a possible explanation for the cause of cancer is referred to as the "scanner theory. " This theory holds that various cells in the healthy body routinely become cancerous: but the body remains healthy because within it there is some... mechanism that scans the body for such malignant cells... and proceeds to kill them before they multiply into a growing tumor. What causes cancer then, according to the tbeory, is not a cancerous cell but rather the failure of the "scanner" to detect it... The theory is offered not because it is proven, but because it demonstrates the way in which physicians are increasingly coming to think about disease: that most disease may best be defined as a failure of the healing process."
M. Scott Peck, M.D.

At one level, the Ascension is the ultimate healing.  It heals the great division between the human race and the Divine will, symbolically recounted in the Fall narrative in the book of Genesis.  Yet it has never been a total or complete healing.  Even within the Church the wisdom has always been  "reformandus semper reformandum" - "Reformed and always in need of reform".  Again and again, the Body of Christ, the People of God  have needed healing.  The same is as true today as ever it was.  It needs healing for its attitudes to LGBT people/women/the mentally ill/the poor/non-Caucasian ethnic groups if you take the Liberal line.  It needs healing for its divergence from Scripture on morals and ethics if you take the Conservative approach.  'Twas ever thus!  and in all likelihood will be until the Parousia.  Living with the continued brokenness and dysfunctional nature of the Institutional Church is a pain and sometimes we find we can't put up with it anymore.

A modern collect for Ascension Day helps me to "Keep Buggering On" as Churchill put it:

"O God,
you withdraw from our sight
that you may be known by our love.
Help us to enter the cloud where you are hidden
and surrender all our certainty to the darkness of faith in Jesus Christ.  Amen"
(Janet Morely, as cited in Daily Office SSF)

The concept of faith in Jesus being dark is disturbing - but sometimes living faith is disturbing.  It takes us to encounter our own (and others) darkness.  And through it to healing.  The Apostles went from being Mates of the Messiah to being Friends of the Late, Dead Jesus before experiencing the healing of the Resurrection.  And then they went on to be the Gob Smacked of Galilee today and then the Babbling Linguists of Jerusalem and finally the Confused Council who hacked out a Compromise at Jerusalem. As it still sort of is.  The fact is the Church and Christians are never in "a static state of perfect wellness" - they are always in "a condition of ongoing healing".  That is our vocation.