Drinking Living Water

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Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron calls this particular event of the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John a master’s course in Evangelization. What is the good Bishop getting at when making such an assertion? Let’s examine the facts: the woman goes to the well at high noon, Jesus is already present at the well, Jesus initiates a conversation, the conversation is initiated without condemnation, Jesus offers to quench her thirst of the affliction of her soul by revealing to the woman what he knows about her.

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. ¶ The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 ¶ Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?[1]

As one notices by the woman and Jesus’ conversational exchange is that the woman believes Jesus to be talking about literal water, but this, of course, is not what Jesus is talking about to her.  So, Jesus further explains to her the meaning of his words:

13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 ¶ but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 ¶ The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Scholars and Theologians have determined that this woman going to the well during this period of the day would mark her undoubtedly as an outcast. Jesus, himself, as the event begins to unfold eventually brings forth the condition of the woman and why she looks to avoid social interaction by drawing water from the well during the extreme heat of the Middle Eastern day.

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 ¶ for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20[2]

It’s important to notice here that before Jesus attempts to correct her or acknowledge her sins, Jesus offers her an invitation to obtain a living spring within herself. Of course, as Christians, we must refrain from thinking that this living spring in which Jesus speaks of doesn’t mean to just live by the rules of the Christian God and be subject to him in fear of damnation, but rather the desire want to praise him and glorify him–for our own benefit– by doing good works in the world.

For example, just this last Sunday prior to hearing this Gospel reading at Mass, I was walking downtown nearby my diocese’s Cathedral and at a distance, I saw a homeless man. As I used this story to explain to my PSR students, I will certainly explain to any reader as I explained to them, that I did something that was not in my personality to do by approaching the man. I asked him his story and what was going on with his life. I won’t go into the detail of what said exactly and what I did to aid him, but I can tell you certainly that after many months of digging the well of my own prayer life—in the words of St. Teresa of Avila—I was drinking living water. I truly felt the presence of Christ with me because he was acting through me. I finally understood what St. Paul meant when he said, “20 ¶ I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[3]

After this encounter, I walked the rest of the way to the church and entered the Cathedral. When I arrived at the pew and knelt before God, I took off my glasses, put my hands over my face to hold back tears as my thoughts were lifted up toward God. All I can say is how strange and beautiful the paradox to be both Jesus and meet him at the well. After retelling the event to my PSR students, I explained to them that they can be Jesus at the well and stir forth springs of living water in their classmates, teachers, and parents. I told them that if they are to come across another kid at their school is may not be the “cool” kid go and eat lunch and play with them. If they are the one being bullied at school and the bully demands their pencil offer a piece of paper as well.

The students were perplexed by the last option, so I explained through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we can stir forth our neighbors living water so that they might believe in Jesus even the worst of situations. I offered them the idea that if a robber demanded my cell phone, I would freely give them the phone and more. At this point, a young lady jerked back and said, “Why would you just give in?” I told her “If I give them the phone freely then they are not stealing, and therefore, not a robber.”

I reminded them that at the heart of breaking forth a living spring is one of the core ideas of the Sermon on the Mount:

39 ¶ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Mt 5:39–42). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[1] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:7–11). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[2] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:13–20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[3] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Ga 2:20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Blessed Columba Marmion’s Reflections on the Mysteries of the Rosary

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II. THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES

1. The Agony in the Garden

It is for the love of His Father above all else that Jesus willed to undergo His Passion.

Behold Jesus Christ in His agony. For three long hours weariness, grief, fear and anguish sweep in upon His soul like a torrent; the pressure of this interior agony is so immense that blood bursts forth from His sacred veins. What an abyss of suffering is reached in this agony! And what does Jesus say to His Father? “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me.” Can it be that Jesus no longer accepts the Will of His Father? Oh! certainly He does. But this prayer is the cry of the sensitive emotions of poor human nature, crushed by ignominy and suffering. Now is Jesus truly a “Man of Sorrows.” Our Savior feels the terrible weight of His agony bearing down upon His shoulders. He wants us to realize this; that is why He utters such a prayer.

But listen to what He immediately adds: “Nevertheless, Father, not My will but Thine be done.” Here is the triumph of love. Because He loves His Father, He places the Will of His Father above everything else and accepts every possible suffering in order to redeem us.

2. The Scourging

Christ substituted Himself voluntarily for us as a sacrificial victim without blemish in order to pay our debt, and, by the expiation and the satisfaction which He made for us, to restore the Divine life to us. This was the mission which Christ came to fulfill, the course which He had to run. “God has placed upon Him”—a man like unto ourselves, of the race of Adam, but entirely just and innocent and without sin—”the iniquity of us all.”

Since Christ has become, so to speak, a sharer in our nature and taken upon Himself the debt of our sin, He has merited for us a share in His justice and holiness. In the forceful words of St. Paul, God, “by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin-offering, has condemned sin in the flesh.” And with an impact still more stunning, the Apostle writes: “For our sakes He (God) made Him (Christ) to be sin who knew nothing of sin.” How startling this expression is: “made Him to be sin”! The Apostle does not say “sinner,” but—what is still more striking—”sin”!

Let us never forget that “we have been redeemed at great price by the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

3. The Crowning with Thorns

Christ Jesus becomes an object of derision and insults at the hands of the temple servants. Behold Him, the all-powerful God, struck by sharp blows; His adorable face, the joy of the saints, is covered with spittle; a crown of thorns is forced down upon His head; a purple robe is placed upon His shoulders as a mock of derision; a reed is thrust into His hand; the servants genuflect insolently before Him in mockery. What an abyss of ignominy! What humiliation and disgrace for One before Whom the angels tremble!

The cowardly Roman governor imagines that the hatred of the Jews will be satisfied by the sight of Christ in this pitiful state. He shows Him to the crowd: “Ecce Homo—Behold the Man!”

Let us contemplate our Divine Master at this moment, plunged into the abyss of suffering and ignominy, and let us realize that the Father also presents Him to us and says to us: “Behold My Son, the splendor of My glory—but bruised for the sins of My people.”

4. Jesus Carries the Cross

Let us meditate upon Jesus Christ on the way to Calvary laden with His cross. He falls under the weight of this burden. To expiate sin, He wills to experience in His own flesh the oppression of sin. Fearing that Jesus will not reach the place of crucifixion alive, the Jews force Simon of Cyrene to help Christ to carry His cross, and Jesus accepts this assistance.

In this Simon represents all of us. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we should all help Jesus to carry His Cross. This is the one sure sign that we belong to Christ—if we carry our cross with Him.

But while Jesus carried His cross, He merited for us the strength to bear our trials with generosity. He has placed in His cross a sweetness which makes ours bearable, for when we carry our cross it is really His that we receive. For Christ unites with His own the sufferings, sorrows, pains and burdens which we accept with love from His hand, and by this union He gives them an inestimable value, and they become a source of great merit for us.

It is above all His love for His Father which impels Christ to accept the sufferings of His Passion, but it is also the love which He bears us.

5. Jesus Dies on the Cross

At the Last Supper, when the hour had come to complete His oblation of self, what did Christ say to His Apostles who were gathered around Him? “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And this is the love, surpassing all loves, which Jesus shows us; for, as St. Paul says, “It is for us all that He is delivered up.” What greater proof of love could He have given us? None.

Hence the Apostle declares without ceasing that “because He loved us, Christ delivered Himself up for us,” and “because of the love He bears for me, He gave Himself up for me.”

“Delivered,” “given”—to what extent? Even to the death on the cross!

What enhances this love immeasurably is the sovereign liberty with which Christ delivered Himself up: “He offered Himself because He willed it.” These words tell us how spontaneously Jesus accepted His Passion. This freedom with which Jesus delivered Himself up to death for us is one of the aspects of His sacrifice which touch our human hearts most profoundly.

Doing and undoing damage

Gareth Thomas, a one-time contributor to this blog has asked us to post the following statement after a comment in a post on 22nd March 2017 contained a link to a 2010 press article about Gareth which left people to make up their own minds whether he had a criminal conviction or not.  This comment was removed from AATW the same day. 

Gareth writes:

In 2010 following a period vocational exploration in Rome at the Pontifical Beda College, I returned to the UK and decided to resume secondary school teaching in Canterbury.  For that I needed a renewal of my Enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau, as all teachers require.  To my horror and utter dismay, my details were confused with someone else on the CRB computer. This is not unusual, my representatives discovered, but happens more often than the public realize.

There followed several months of Kafkaesque nightmare in which I was not only thrown out of my own identity but avoided by teacher friends in Canterbury, impoverished to the point of using up the few remaining savings I had left, and eventually living in a homeless person’s hostel in Canterbury.

My only hope was to get the media on my side and embarrass the Kent Police and the CRB into overturning the computer error.  My union, the National Union of Teachers, were completely useless and I suspected they believed the CRB computer too!  So I appeared on the BBC television, local radio and the local press, talking about the issue.  It took nearly four months to resolve, by which time I was a wreck and diagnosed by a specialist with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  At one point I was on suicide watch and had regular counselling which helped me avoid such thoughts.

I left Canterbury in the summer of 2010 to go and stay on a farm with my friend Barbara and her husband near Poitiers in France, and received the most amazing care from them and their animals.  I spent the time painting their house and walking with donkeys.  It was there, miraculously, that a phone call came from Spain offering me a teaching job, and I never went back to England.  As my great supporter in Canterbury, the MP Julian Brazier said, “Your decision is a loss to the local teaching profession, and a sad reflection of the errors that the checking system can make, but I wish you all the best in your new life.”

I eventually received a seven page apology from Michael Jones of the CRB “Maladministration Investigation Team” in Liverpool.  This is the first page:

The letter detailed five errors made by the police and the CRB, apologized for the “inconvenience and distress caused” and offered me five hundred pounds compensation.

They took another three months to issue me with a CRB certificate, which arrived at my old address in Canterbury long after I had left the country, never to return.

 

After I began my new life in Spain I spent that five hundred pounds compensation buying my first donkeys Rubí and Matilde.  I decided that the nightmare past could be converted into the new dream of a future in Spain.  These past seven years have been the best time of my life.

Unfortunately, the nightmare reappears from time to time.  During a period of fairly robust tit-for-tat argument on the old Daily Telegraph Damian Thompson blogs, and the Catholic Herald blogs, etc. an anonymous poster started putting up links to press articles about the CRB muddle of 2010.  This was maliciously done in order to cause people to believe there was something suspicious about my past.  While teaching at the first school I worked for here in Spain an anonymous message containing such links was sent to the director of the school.  I had to take in all my papers including those illustrated here, and also get assurances sent from Julian Brazier MP that I had been cleared of any suggestion that I had a criminal record.

To find that very same technique being used right here on the All Along the Watchtower blog yesterday was shocking.  I don’t honestly know whether this named individual is the same one who has anonymously in the past used the very same technique to bully me in response to internet disagreements, but I merely point out that the technique is identical and the link concerned is the same one, while there are others that could have been found.  The article is from a period before the matter was resolved and leaves the question open.  Later press coverage dealt with the CRB’s error.

As you may imagine, I was once again thrown back into the past and I have suffered a very worrying night, ending up with a migraine.  I am not at work today but have instead been reflecting on the situation and am now very worried that the same attack on my professional integrity may be sent to my present school, so I have to go through it all again.  For this reason I am consulting my lawyer and action will be taken imminently against the individual concerned, in the form of a restraining order.  In the circumstances, I think readers will understand that I will have no further contact with this blog, but I warmly thank both Jess and Chalcedon for their very kind support in our discussion of these matters.  I wish you all the best.

Gareth Thomas

Let me add that I am happy to allow Gareth the room to put on record here the great wrong done to him.  I have disabled further comments on this post. C.

History Does NOT repeat itself.

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For the ancients, the future was always to be a re-play of the past, as the past was simply an earthly  replay of the drama of the heavens. That history repeats itself is false history.

HISTORY IS ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW.

The great gift of the Jews is that history is always something new, a process unfolding through time whose direction and end we cannot know, except, in so far God gives us some hint as what is to come.

Those wonderful words In Second Isaiah are as true and real for to-day as they were five hundred years ago

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness,  and rivers in the desert. (Isaish 49:13)

The future will not be what has happened before; indeed the only reality that the future has is that it has not happened yet. It is unknowable, and what it will be cannot be discovered by fortune-telling, astrology or palmistry. The Romans used to try and predict the result of future events by auguries such as reading the stars or examining entrails of sacrificial animals.

Time ever flows forward. Clocks are merely a help in determining our day to day living.

We do not have any power over the future. In a profound sense even God does not control the future,. because it is the collective responsibility of those who are bringing about the future by their actions in the present. For this reason the concept of the future holds out promise rather than just the same old thing . We are not doomed, not bound to some predetermined fate: we are free.

If anything can happen, we are truly liberated from past time – as liberated as were the Israelite Slaves when they crossed the Sea of Reeds.(Red Sea)

This wonderful new sense of time did not descend upon the Israelites all at once. What began as the call of Abraham to leave his place and people and set out for an unknown destiny blossomed into the vocation of Moses to lead his enslaved people out of the god-haunted ambiance of cyclical time of Egypt, where everything that would be had already been and all important questions had been answered, already set in stone, like the staring immobile statues of Pharaoh.

Through the Ancient Israelites  we have gone from the personal destiny of Abraham to the corporate destiny of the People of Israel. We have gone from a household god, that one carries along for good luck, to YHWH the God of gods whose power is mightier even than the mightiest power on earth can summon, because it is the power of love.

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Behold I make all things New.

Blessed Columba Marmion’s Reflections on the Mysteries of the Rosary

I would like to present the reflection of the Blessed Dom Marmion on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Therefore over the next 3 days I will present the 15 mysteries as they are divided between the Joyful, the Sorrowful and the Glorious mysteries. I hope they provide useful material for our contemplation during Lent.

I. THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES

1. The Annunciation

Picture the scene of the Annunciation. God proposes the mystery of the Incarnation which He will accomplish in the Virgin Mary—but not until she has given her consent. The accomplishment of the mystery is held in suspense awaiting the free acceptance of Mary. At this moment Mary represents all of us in her own person; it is as if God is waiting for the response of the humanity to which He longs to unite Himself. What a solemn moment this is! For upon this moment depends the decision of the most vital mystery of Christianity.

But see how Mary gives her answer. Full of faith and confidence in the heavenly message and entirely submissive to the Divine Will, the Virgin Mary replies in a spirit of complete and absolute abandonment: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word.” This “Fiat” is Mary’s consent to the Divine Plan of Redemption. It is like an echo of the “Fiat” of the creation of the world. But this is a new world, a world infinitely superior, a world of grace, which God will cause to arise in consequence of Mary’s consent, for at that moment the Divine Word, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, becomes Man in Mary: “And the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.”

2. The Visitation

See how the Holy Spirit greets the Virgin Mary through the mouth of Elizabeth: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoke to thee by the Lord.”

Blessed indeed, for by this faith in the word of God the Virgin Mary became the Mother of Christ.

What finite creature has ever received honor such as this from the Infinite Being?

Mary gives all the glory to the Lord for the marvelous things which are accomplished in her. From the moment of the Incarnation the Virgin Mother sings in her heart a canticle full of love and gratitude.

In the presence of her cousin Elizabeth she allows the most profound sentiments of her heart to break forth in song; she intones the “Magnificat” which, in the course of centuries, her children will repeat with her to praise God for having chosen her among all women:

“My soul magnifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid…

Because He Who is mighty has done great things for me

And holy is His name.”

3. The Birth of Jesus

The Virgin Mary sees in the Infant that she has given to the world, a child in appearance like all other children, the very Son of God. Mary’s soul was filled with an immense faith which welled up in her and surpassed the faith of all the just men of the Old Testament; this is why she recognized her God in her own Son.

This faith manifests itself externally by an act of adoration. From her very first glance at Jesus, the Virgin prostrated herself interiorly in a spirit of adoration so profound that we can never fathom its depth.

In the heart of Mary are joined in perfect harmony a creature’s adoration of her God and a Mother’s love for her only Son.

How inconceivably great the joy in the soul of Jesus must have been as He experienced this boundless love of His Mother! Between these two souls took place ceaseless exchanges of love which brought them into ever closer unity. O wonderful exchange: to Mary Jesus gives the greatest gifts and graces, and to Jesus Mary gives her fullest cooperation: after the union of the Divine Persons in the Blessed Trinity and the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the Incarnation, no more glorious or more profound union can be conceived than the union between Jesus and Mary.

4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

On the day of the Presentation God received infinitely more glory than He had hitherto received in the temple from all the sacrifices and all the holocausts of the Old Testament. On this day it is His own Son Jesus Who is offered to Him, and Who offers to the Father the infinite homage of adoration, thanksgiving, expiation and supplication.

This is indeed a gift worthy of God.

And it is from the hands of the Virgin, full of grace, that this offering, so pleasing to God, is received. Mary’s faith is perfect. Filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, she has a clear understanding of the value of the offering which she is making to God at this moment; by His inspirations the Holy Spirit brings her soul into harmony with the interior dispositions of the heart of her Divine Son.

Just as Mary had given her consent in the name of all humanity when the angel announced to her the mystery of the Incarnation, so also on this day Mary offers Jesus to the Father in the name of the whole human race. For she knows that her Son is “the King of Glory, the new light enkindled before the dawn, the Master of life and death.”

5. Jesus is Found in the Temple

“How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” This is the answer that Jesus gave to His Mother when, after three days’ search she had the joy of finding Him in the Temple.

These are the first words coming from the lips of the Word Incarnate to be recorded in the Gospel.

In these words Jesus sums up His whole person, His whole life, His whole mission. They reveal His Divine Sonship; they testify to His supernatural mission. Christ’s whole life will only be a clarifying and magnificent exposition of the meaning of these words.

St. Luke goes on to tell us that Mary “did not understand the word that He spoke.” But even if Mary did not grasp the full significance of these words, she did not doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. This is why she submitted in silence to that Divine Will which had demanded such a sacrifice of her love.

“Mary kept these words of Jesus carefully in her heart.” She kept them in her heart, for there was the tabernacle in which she adored the mystery concealed in the words of he Son, waiting until the full light of understanding would be granted her.

If you would like to learn more of the Blessed Columba Marmion and his spirituality I would suggest this recent article at Homiletic and Pastoral Review: http://www.hprweb.com/2017/02/bl-columba-marmion-on-living-in-christ/

Stone Circles and their spiritual significance

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The photo above is of the stone circle at Boscawen Un on the way to Land’s End. It’s four thousand years old and for me a holy place. The interpretation of these sites is in a continual state of flux, because no one knows for certainty what actually happened here.  They were most likely ceremonial centres connected with the winter and summer solstices, the seasons, as well as with birth and death. Here where I live in Cornwall, I’ve been surrounded by these ancient sites for  as long as I remember. There’s little doubt that they have left a profound influence on my life both as a lad and subsequently. Most of our Cornish Churches are built on old pagan sites where the ancient gods such as the Earth Mother were worshipped. Cornwall has many links with Ancient India.

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Seen against the sky the effect is impressive. The Celtic Tribes who erected these monoliths might have been pagan, but God is not without witness in any age. There are more stone circles and ancient sites in Cornwall than anywhere else in the British Isles, and that includes Wales and Ireland.

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Standing stones are another feature of our prehistoric past. Possibly these were to anchor the souls of the dead and stop them from bothering the living. There are large numbers of them around here. There is one just behind my bungalow.

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I visit Boscawen Un two or three times a year, and such visits always refresh and spiritually recharge me.  Boscawen Un, (pronounced noon), in common with other stone circles in Cornwall are “thin places,” where heaven and earth meet. That they may be pagan sites in no way diminishes their sacred nature. God, however he may be named, transcends all the concepts and ideas that we associate with the deity. It’s enlightening to realize that our Bronze Age ancestors buried their dead in Barrow Graves with articles such as pottery, implements and weapons for a future life. They certainly rejected the idea  that death was the end.

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Barrow Grave near St Buryan. (Penzance)

The photo below at Chun Quoit near Land’s End, has had the earth removed from around it. The cremated remains of several people would have been buried in these tombs.

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One of the major festivals of the Celtic year was Samhain, celebrated on 31st October and extending into the first week of November. All Hallows, Hallowe’en and All Saints are familiar to us because the Church in her wisdom baptized all the old pagan feasts and gave them new meaning as Christian Feasts. The rituals of Samhain were concerned with the dead and the spirits of the ancestors. All Saints and All Souls have ancient origins in our Pagan past.

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St Buryan Stone Circle and one of the easiest to find. Its just off the main road to Porthcurno and the Minack Theatre.

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It was up this estuary of the River Hayle that the Saints came with the Gospel to West Cornwall.  The little Church in the far distance is St Uny who came here from Ireland.

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All the photos are my own taken at various times over the years.

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The descendants of the Ancient Pagans who originally constructed the Circles gladly received the Gospel when the Monks from Asia Minor came to these shores with the GOOD News.

Original Sin

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As an Anglican I accept what Article IX says concerning Original Sin. However the two Genesis accounts of creation are  Middle Eastern and  Semitic  approaches to understanding the world. Adam and Eve are representative of humankind as we find ourselves in God’s creation. In a sense we are all Adam and Eve and in need of redemption by Christ. In the words of St Paul –  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23.)

“Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.”

The language is somewhat quaint, but the thrust of it is clear. I’ve always assumed that the Roman Catholic Church more or less believes the same.

The word “infection” is especially relevant – “And this infection of nature doth remain.”

We are fallen creatures. Nature is red hot in tooth and claw and that includes us.” Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is as relevant for to-day as when it was written by him. Paul begins with Christ and what God has done for us in Christ.

In the Greek Orthodox Church’s  Faith, the term “original sin” refers to the “first” sin of Adam and Eve. As a result of this sin, humanity bears the “consequences” of sin, the chief of which is death. Here the word “original” may be seen as synonymous with “first.” Hence, the “original sin” refers to the “first sin” in much the same way as “original chair” refers to the “first chair.”

In the West, humanity likewise bears the “consequences” of the “original sin” of Adam and Eve. However, the West also understands that humanity is likewise “guilty” of the sin of Adam and Eve. The term “Original Sin” here refers to the condition into which humanity is born, a condition in which guilt as well as consequence is involved.

In the Orthodox Christian understanding, while humanity does bear the consequences of the original, or first, sin, humanity does not bear the personal guilt associated with this sin. Adam and Eve are guilty of their willful action; we bear the consequences, chief of which is death.

While the Orthodox Church does accord Augustine of Hippo the title “saint” and recognizes the vast number of theological works he produced, Augustine was not as well known in the Christian East. His works were not translated into Greek until the 14th century; as such, he had little or no influence on mainstream Orthodox thought until 17th century.

It would be interesting to know the views of Lutherans and Calvinists believe.

Baptists and many other Evangelical Churches do not believe in infant baptism.

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Lenten tensions

I have been a trifle busy this last fortnight (two 6 day working weeks of about 14 hours a day, with only one day, Sunday last, off), so when I saw that the blog’s statistics were rising, my first thought was right – someone has said something which has prompted furious comments. I was a bit taken aback to discover yesterday’s pst had vanished, but there is nothing to stop people taking down their posts, and indeed, when they leave and delete their names, all their posts vanish into the dark with them. Then I remembered it is Lent, and usually, at this season, there is an outbreak of some sort – I do hope that the last 24 hours or so here are the end of it.

We are all Christians, and we all take our faith seriously, and that probably offers multiple reasons why this time of the year leads to tensions; fasting is not easy, and I doubt I’m the only one to get cranky when deprived of whatever it is I have given up for Lent (in my case biscuits and chocolate); but let’s take that into account shall we?  On the rights and the wrongs I am not commenting, not out of cowardice, but because I have not the time to read all the comments. I will say only that I respect all those involved in this blog, and am sorrowful when it goes the way it does from time to time; having fallen into that way of being here from time to time, I am in no position to throw even a small stone. I would ask that we let bygones be bygones and concentrate on what we are here for – to communicate our faith and our views on it.

I am unsure that America’s culture wars have added much to anything. In so far as they have led to the current polarised political situation in America, they may have had an adverse effect; we shall see. But I’d rather they remained a part of American exceptionalism – except of course, because America sets the world’s culture, they won’t and can’t. On the subject of Teilhard, I doubt anyone below a certain age would get heated over him – which is perhaps all that needs to be said. Whatever he contributed that is of value will survive, what wasn’t won’t. But this itch, this urge, this need to shut down any thinking which is not in accord with what an individual thinks is ‘Catholic’, worries me. Newman suffered from it, it led to the destruction of much of Origen’s writing, and it helped give the Church the reputation it has not quite shaken off of being too scared and narrow-minded to engage in serious debate. This is not the Anglican tradition, which, whatever its faults, has always encouraged debate, at least in the last 150 years.

At its best thins blog offers a unique space on the Internet – we all value it, so let’s show that by respecting the unwritten rules – as good Anglo-Saxons should 🙂

Assisi Pilgrimage.

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I have visited Assisi twice and each time been overwhelmed by the spirit of the little town. On both occasions I was the chaplain to an Anglican group and was able to celebrate the Eucharist in one of the many chapels of the Basilica. If you’ve never been, believe me, It is an experience you will never forget.

The walk down to the Church of San Damiano has a spiritual presence that is almost palpable. On several occasions I was able to be alone and meditate along the way.

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It was interesting talking to the other pilgrims who were in the group. On each time were were thirty of us. The joy of pilgrimage is being with others and sharing one another’s experience of  God’s grace in our lives. Initially we met up at Gatwick and our English reserve was much in evidence. Gradually it began to melt and we found ourselves blending into a corporate unit. We were not all committed believers. Three  came out of curiosity. One lovely man came up to me and expressed his scepticism about God. We had several quite long conversations and I sensed that he was undergoing a battle within himself. On one  occasion I found Jim  standing alone gazing up at this crucifix in the Church of San Damiano. He didn’t see me, and I quietly left leaving him to his thoughts. We didn’t get a chance to speak again,  but I’d hazard a guess that the Lord Jesus had embraced him. The grace of God has unexpected ways into the soul’s sanctuary that is beyond our comprehension.

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This is the crucifix and it radiated a healing power which remains with me to this day. Its not a good photograph because of the dim light in the chapel. But it is so life like and somehow penetrates one’s inner soul with grace. Crucifixes have always meant much to me but this one in particular. The photo below is of San Damiano.

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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

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Franciscan Chapel of the Anglican Friary in Hilfield Dorset.

Samson

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Samson is an interesting  character in the Old Testament. (Judges, chapters 13-16.) We can learn much about ourselves through it. The drama has many implications for us,  but the conclusion lies far beyond the Old Testament narrative.

Samson’s story is a powerful saga about a man who was NOT the brave leader commonly supposed by the average person. The book of Judges presents him as a man who was given to whoring and sexual exploits.  The Bible is littered with characters that are seriously flawed.   King Saul, King David and his son Solomon were far from perfect. Samson could be said to head the list.

“Samson the hero,” is what every Jewish child the first time he or she hears about him. Over the years that is how he has been portrayed in works of art, theatre and film. Saint Saens composed an impressive opera about him, the music of which captures the pathos of his lonely existence. Grand Opera is a wonderful media for portraying loss and tragedy. All the best operas end with a death. Think of Madame Butterfly in the opera by Puccini.

Verdi’s opera based on Shakespeare’s Othello adds considerably to the tragedy of the story. Othello you will remember kills Desdemona, his lover, out of rumour and misplaced jealousy.

Samson was a man whose calling was a never ending struggle to accommodate his life  to the powerful destiny thrust upon him. That is true of all Christians.  We are all flawed. How otherwise can we understand others?

Samson couldn’t grasp the tragic role into which he had been cast. He’s a very fragmented individual. He was born a stranger to his parents. Despite being the strongman of popular myth, he constantly yearned to win the affections of his father and mother and love in general. The whole of his existence was the quest for love that he was never to know.

There are few other Bible stories with so much passion, action, fireworks and raw emotion. The battle with the lion, the three hundred burning foxes, the women he bedded and the one woman that he loved, are intensely dramatic. His betrayal by the women in his life, from his mother to Delilah, and in the end his murderous suicide, when he brought the house down on himself and three thousand Philistines, are not calculated to give comfort or hope. The lesson of Samson’s story is what the Spirit communicates to us through it.

Beyond the untamed wildness, impulsiveness, the chaos and the din, we sense a life story that is at bottom the tortured journey of a single, lonely and turbulent soul who never found anywhere a true home in the world. His very body was a harsh place of exile.  This discovery, call it recognition, which like all tragic stories,  slips silently into the day to day existence of each of us, into our most private moments, and our buried secrets.  There’s a little bit of Samson in every one of us, hopefully without such drastic results.

Now the conclusion – Only the Lord Jesus can give us the love for which we have been created and only He can heal our conflicts and lead us into the present reality of his Kingdom.  Jesus is as much for Now as any future life that might exist beyond the grave.

I don’t say that Jesus solves all our problems. But he does help us live with them

Celtic-Spirituality