Monday, 31 December 2012

Reflection in Ongoing Time

I wish you all a happy end of 2012 and a blessed 2013!

Ten days ago the world was supposed to have ended. On the assumption that today is not the end of the world, either (though the Jews tell us that we get a ten days’ reprieve to mend our ways before the ultimate Day of the Lord), here is a reflection on how to evaluate the past…while time goes on.

On reading Church history


This ragtag band of men, this feuding breed
that claims to be united by a name
but differs on its sound; that boasts a creed
but tones it down for wealth, or peace, or fame,
survived its persecutors’ deadly purge
one moment, then sought shelter in their power;
what blind and desperate survival urge
has brought them to, will bring them past this hour?
Lax discipline, grand dreams, unbending laws,
critics that judge and copycats that rob;
God! cannot history set wide its jaws
and swallow this exasperating mob?
Who can explain – for I am at a loss –
how these adore one Man upon one Cross?


This remnant people that has crossed the firth
beyond our nature’s furthest borderland,
linked by the secret bond of second birth
to God’s paternal and creative hand,
yet moves to all delights of eyes and touch
and blinks in mortal weariness of soul.
All christenable oddities and much
absurd attachment go to shape the whole;
to God’s last sentence history’s deferred,
rejoiced in, judged, confessed, reweighed for glory
under the mercy of the final word
who will discern the plots of every story.
One God inspires our way in desert’s dust,
us, pastored, pastured in one common trust.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Ecce Virgo Concipiet

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.

Twice this Advent, this well-known text from the prophet Isaiah has been the Scripture reading during Lauds. Together with the immediately following verse which no one has ever heard: He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. But that is only a triviality, to be casually dropped during a Christmas dinner or something of that sort; in any case, beside the point.

I am enamoured of Isaiah 7:14 because it challenges our insidious evolutionism, the reigning assumption (whose tyranny even rebels feel) that everything in this world is a product of natural forces, and every positive development a slow-paced unfolding of what one possesses within, flourishing under prosperous natural conditions. The way pregnancies usually develop. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But Mary shows us a higher alternative, the alternative of the People of God. For as Kierkegaard said, God is that all things are possible. A woman who becomes a mother without a man (proximate or remote – the latter possibility technology allows) is a miracle indeed. But if the natural conditions do not obtain, will the fruit survive? Will it be healthy? It stands in need of careful scrutiny, this Child; it might be born half-human, half-void (for God is nothing to nature): stunted, crippled. But no! Not only is the Child as healthy as any other, but He is already the Health-bringer of the world.

Similarly, God gives the Church a hundredfold of what She gives to Him in prayer, sacrifice and love. It sometimes seems that all these things are vain. But at other times it does not seem so, as at Christmas. We are Christ-bearers; that is enough. We are really and truly filled because – I speak as a fool – because the void overshadows us.