Often we Christians have a semi-heretical streak in us; for instance, we think that the Holy Spirit is a sort of “second best” to Jesus. Like the disciples, we would have preferred to cling on to the physical presence of Jesus, even the Risen physical presence of Jesus, but we resign ourselves to “putting up with” the Holy Spirit.
Expressed like that, of course, it sounds quite ridiculous, but I do believe we are infected by such a spirit, sometimes.
Instead, I think it is more helpful to think of the Holy Spirit as “Jesus gone global (or even universal)”. The Paraclete does not replace Jesus, he makes him present. Jesus did not leave us a pastoral manual on how to react in any and every situation; he left us a church, he left us the Spirit. He himself said, in John 14 that his followers, those who believe in him, would do “greater things” than him. We find that hard to believe. But Jesus did not preach to all the world, only to a limited area of Palestine. The Church has preached and still does preach to all the world. That is only one example.
The classical theology of Pentecost, the Jewish feast of completion after the fifty days from Pasch are over, leads us straight into the heart of the Triune God. We believe that God is One God, not three Gods. However, in that Godhead, there are three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These must not be seen as simply “roles” that God decides to play from time to time; nor must they be seen as different “hats” he chooses to wear when doing different things. The Persons are distinct, separate, and yet One. How this can be we have, of course, no way of knowing. Sometimes a loose analogy is used that God the Father, infinite in all perfections, from all eternity “loved himself” so much (and it is okay for him to do that!) that this was the generation of the Son (the Son was not created, but came forth from the bosom of the Father from all eternity). And their mutual love for one another, a love quite beyond anything we could ever imagine, is the generation of the Holy Spirit. This is, of course, a mere analogy and cannot be pushed too far. But don’t worry. We shall hopefully have all eternity to get to grips with the real thing.
Pentecost, the birthday of the church, the day on which the disciples first preached in tongues the marvels of God’s love (the first lesson in pastoral theology) is a day we need to prepare for by going to the Upper Room and losing ourselves in adoration. God, infinitely beyond us, yet infinitely close to us, God of majesty, God of tenderness, we adore you!
Magpies in my garden 10.5.18
I have mixed feelings about magpies. On the one hand they are impressive ,striking birds who strut confidently around my garden , on the other hand they harass other birds within the garden , so I have not viewed them as welcome visitors.
This year they have nested in a tree in my garden which has been quite fascinating. I watched as they built a nest, with intelligence, care and skill, picking up the twigs they wanted, putting them in place and shaping them to create a very well structured and orderly nest.
I have watched them fight repeated battles near their nest with a determined grey squirrel . I have watched them fly to and fro repeatedly feeding their hungry and noisy chicks and we have watched this unfolding drama with more and more interest and wondered when the birds would fledge.
This week there have been young magpies on the ground in the garden, looking dazed and downy. Did they fall or did they fly? Would they survive? We resisted the temptation to interfere in any way and watched nature do what she does best. The chicks walked around in the shadow of the trees and the parents sat in the branches of the tree above and flew down at intervals to feed them. The chicks visibly gained in strength and confidence over a few days and started to test out their wings-but not very well from what I could see. Time will tell.
I have been seriously impressed by these magpies-it has been like watching a lesson in parenting- supporting your young to leave the nest and fend for themselves but keeping a watching brief from a distance and intervening when you need to help. Just like having teenage children!
It isn’t easy making transitions, we create our own nests, we take our children to school for their first day and the next thing we know time has flown by and they are leaving home, setting out on their own, making their own way, and we have to trust and pray that all will be well for them, and we have to let go…… graciously . Dr Sarah Richards, oblate
A theology of Wonder 10.5.18
I was sitting in my car the other day waiting to collect my son from school and watched a young child walking past my car with her mother. The child wasn’t happy about something and she freely let the world know about it. My first instinct was to smile to myself, remembering that experience , and my second reaction was to think how wonderful children are, to be able to be so free to express their emotions wherever and however they like.
That thought reminded me of watching my young son skip along sometimes when he was little, just simply because he was happy and carefree, just through pure joy, just because he could. That was so lovely to see and that memory still makes me smile.
I was reminded of this natural joy again today when I saw a little boy kiss the face of a statue of Mary.
My first reaction was alarm that he might knock the statue over, a natural enough response if you have ever been in a shop with breakables on sale with your own young children!!
Thankfully that didn’t happen, and my second reaction swiftly followed , that this was such a very sweet act. He stood in front of the statue and looked at her a little while and then he kissed her with the simple freedom of a child. What a gift to have.
GK Chesterton wrote about a theology of wonder, to be able to view the world like a child with the freedom of our imagination at play. There is a real joy in that. He said “The imagination dares to take risks, it dares to have fun, dares to play….
GK Chesterton was described by K Dwarakanath as “a laughing philosopher who never outgrew that spontaneous and child-like sense of wonder and mystery in all things…………..”
“…..The Christian imagination can dare because it understands in its very depths that things are not as they seem-that the first shall be last, that the smallest shall be the greatest, that the proud shall be humbled, that the little child shall lead them all ” GK Chesterton Dr Sarah Richards, oblate
THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD 10.5.18
What does the feast of the Ascension mean?
It celebrates the day when Christ rose up to heaven in the sight of his disciples, thus bringing to a close what might be called his direct appearances on earth. Henceforth, in a sense, it was up to us to make him present and make him known. This sounds like abandonment, I know, but in reality it is the beginning of a new era, initiated at Pentecost, where the gift of the Holy Spirit makes it possible “when two or three are gathered together in His name, there Jesus is among them”. Jesus had said in the gospel that his disciples would do greater things than him. This sounds puzzling, impossible even. But, when you think about it, Jesus did not travel all round the world, and preach to all peoples. But his followers have. Jesus did not set up a worldwide network that, for all its faults among its individual human members, still is a very powerful force for good in the world today. We are talking about the Church, i.e. you and me, and people like us, who believe in his Name.
So what do we need to do?
We need to gather in that Upper Room, the upper room of our hearts, and pray for an outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit, to renew our courage and strength, and to open our jaded and hardened hearts to forgiveness, mercy, and a new start.
TABLETOP 2.5.18 SAINT ATHANASIUS
The name Athanasius (A-THAN-AY-SEE-US) is a bit of a mouthful to pronounce, but it is worth doing so, because he is one of the four great Greek Doctors of the Church, alongside Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil and Saint Gregory Nazianzen. Athanasius was born in 296 AD and lived till 373 AD. He was Patriarch of Alexandria , in Egypt, for 46 years, but spent almost a couple of decades in exile because he would not support the Arian heresy (which said, essentially, that Jesus was not God but only a creature used by God). The longer I live, the more I see how important the true doctrine is, but you will probably be wondering what all the fuss is about. You see, we had to be saved (there is something not right with me, and with humankind in general)–just look at the news to find the proof. People do bad stuff. They hate themselves for doing it, quite often, but they still do it. They are enchained. Somebody has got to break those chains. This is what Jesus does. But, although God in his omnipotence could simply have declared our salvation, and it would have happened, the Fathers tell us that it was “necessary” for God to get involved in our world, and he did so by taking on a complete human nature, while remaining God. How that can be we cannot even begin to imagine, but we can imagine God as man, in Jesus. He is from our side, but he is also from God’s side, so that, in himself, he brings about a reconciliation of the two. And he had a real Mother, Mary, the Blessed Virgin. He had to have his nappies changed. He had to be taught. Saint Joseph, his foster-father, had to teach him how to hold a plane, how to adjust the blade, so that it “sings” over the wood (as Fr Prior Stephen told us in a sermon, recently, about his own Father). Get involved, then, with this God man, if you want reconciliation. Or ask his Mum, who is ours also.
Hi, everybody! There were a lot of people at the ROSARY ON THE COAST celebration in our chapel yesterday (29.4.18), come to pray for the healing of our land and for the rediscovery of our spiritual roots, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God. Thank you all for taking the trouble to do this, or for joining us in prayer at home. Prayer went on also at 313 locations around the UK, at exactly 3pm in the afternoon.
We are now about to enter the month of May, traditionally dedicated to Mary. Half the wild flowers in the woods and meadows are after her. But, for historical reasons, we have been somehow cut off from this sane tradition. It has been interpreted in the past as just superstition, or even as an evil thing, somehow taking away from the unique position of Jesus as the one unique mediator between God and man.
Christians believe that Jesus, the Saviour, is not merely a good man who left us challenging teaching and example, but that, God as he was, he actually came into our world in flesh and blood like ours. And in order to do that, he chose to have a mother. That Mother had to be untainted by any kind of connection with evil (for otherwise, the human nature that he took from her would itself have been evil) and that is why we believe that Mary is without sin. It is not that she is anything in herself (she would be the first to admit this) but because of the grace and power of Jesus, her Son, that she is completely free. Indeed, she is totally empty (sounds shocking, doesn’t it?) so that she can be totally and always filled to the brim with God, without the compromises and evasions which, sadly, you and I carry around with us, and which cause us such a lot of grief.
You and I are invited into that same freedom. Do you want to be free? Do you want to be happy?
If you have a moment, go and visit the Grotto of Our Lady, just by the monastery, on the left as you make the approach to the monastery building. Say a prayer for anything you like. Ask for help. Say you are sorry for the past. Whatever. God is there to hear you, through Mary.