Glory to the Logos

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All things descend from the great I AM. In Him we live and move and have our being. So it was, so it is, so it ever shall be, world without end. He transcends our existence, but we do not transcend His. He contains the universe, but it does not contain Him. He is existence itself, just as He is reason itself, the eternal Logos. Beyond Him no thing can exist, but He calls the things that are not as though they were, and so they are.

The world cannot meaningfully deny His existence for its existence depends on Him. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” How shall we answer the fool? According to his foolishness? What can one speak to chaos but order?

We are commanded to present a defence: through our works and through our words. When we live as Christ would have us, we command the praises of God from the lips of His enemies. They were made to acknowledge the Good, and nothing is good apart from God, who is Goodness itself. When we speak in accordance with heavenly wisdom and  grace, then we refute the arguments of darkness: there is nothing that the light cannot expose; but the darkness has no power over the Light.

One cannot use logic to refute logic. The anarchic tendencies we see today have no means to escape God. If they would depart into the outer darkness, they will do so by His leave. Those who would insist that the universe is eternal or that it is composed of an eternal substance cannot claim empiricism as their support. Such a priori claims are the antithesis of a posteriori observations, and if they are inductive inferences, then they lack certainty. What is tendentiously asserted may be tendentiously denied.

Our universe had a beginning. On this physics and the Bible are in agreement. But how shall we understand why it began at all? The beginning, from an empirical perspective, is ex nihilo. How then can empiricism give an account of this state? It cannot. A posteriori arguments are insufficient for such a realm of understanding; we must approach the matter, insofar as we are able, from an a priori perspective.

However, while Kant makes the claim that we cannot experience God through (sensory) experience, this a priori assumption can be challenged. On the a priori reading of sensory existence as dependent upon and existing “within” God, God is known a posteriori – i.e. through experience – every time we have sensory experiences. The distinction is between human experience as contingent upon God and experience as a guide to God’s other qualities, His nature.

From the orderliness of nature – which principle cannot be derived purely from nature itself, but rather relies upon innate a priori concepts and knowledge – I can infer the wisdom, power, goodness, and purpose of God. That which is not in accordance with order requires explanation (the imperfection of my own observation and/or understanding;  the power and free will of other agents working against the will of God).

The disjunction between our own powers and intellect and the power and wisdom of God should draw praise from our innermost being. Humankind is without excuse before God: no one with reason can meaningfully deny His existence or His goodness, whether metaphysical or moral. No one can assert that the Thrones, Dominions, and Powers gathered in rebellion against the I AM can succeed. They have no victory in themselves – all “triumphs” they might revel in are contingent upon the free will afforded to them and other agents by God. They are free to depart from the Good, but how then shall they qualify their achievement? St John the Revelator had a word for it: DEATH.

The choice is before us – a choice that is only meaningful through the Logos: LIFE or DEATH. To be within the Logos is to live; to depart from Him is death. Every time  we acknowledge the splendour of life, we return glory to Him who is most glorious. We are contingent beings. Yes, we have great minds, but they are as nothing before the Logos Himself.

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

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Go and sin no more.

Sometime ago  a long established college friend of mine sat down across the table from me and looked up with the biggest smile on his face. “We finally had sex,” he  said. “And it has changed everything. We are so much closer now. It’s like all of our problems just disappeared!”

Now, our culture would insist that I be happy for my friend and his girl friend. After all, he was happy with his actions, and that’s all that matters, right? That’s what I believed at the time, so I took the easy way out and put on a smile for my friend, fake though it was.

At the time I couldn’t help thinking of the woman taken in adultery, but I didn’t say anything. In other words I betrayed our Lord. It’s so easy as a pastor to confuse truth with acceptance. We fear unpopularity and accusations of sitting in judgement. Its a broad path and can lead to the loss of one’s integrity, possibly of one’s soul.

We are becoming more and more interested in the idea of acceptance. For the most part, this is a great thing. The old, ugly theology of using love as a way to disguise judgement and hatred has given way to a warmer, healthier Christian community, or has it?

But, as with many cultural shifts, there is a balance to keep in mind. In our efforts to “love the sinner, hate the sin,” we often find it easier to ignore the sin altogether, and confuse blind acceptance with genuine love.

And in a lot of ways that’s a good thing—we should humble ourselves to listen to, love and accept others. But in a culture where “Only God can judge me” is a common phrase heard among believers and non-believers alike, it’s easy to wonder: Are we getting love and acceptance all wrong?

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” has meant different things to different generations. Sometimes, it’s been used as an excuse to essentially ostracize people we view as “sinners” from the Church. But I often see our generation leaning too far the other direction: most of us take the phrase to mean, “Accept the sinner and their sinful behaviours, and just secretly hate the sin.”

The truth is, love and acceptance are not the same thing. The even bigger truth is that love is messy and hard, while acceptance is clean and easy. Love says, “Your actions are hurting you. And because I love you, I am going to hold you accountable.”

Love sometimes means telling your friends they’re wrong. It sometimes means calling them out on their behaviour. Love sometimes means disagreements and arguments, but those ultimately lead to personal and spiritual growth.

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‘Far Right Rot’?

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Liberal angst runs high in America, so it is perhaps inevitable that the Washington Post should turn its fire on a construct of its own imagining, the until now unknown figure of ‘Breitbart Burke’ a’renegade cleric … undermining Francis’s reformist, compassionate papacy’ and one who is ‘using his position within the walls of the Vatican to legitimize extremist forces that want to bring down Western liberal democracy, Stephen K. Bannon-style.’ The Post has extended its ‘culture war’ to the Catholic Church. An executive editor of the New York Times admitted recently that the media there and in Washington ‘do not quite get religion’ – and goodness me does the Post article exemplify that fact. ‘Breitbart Burke’ wants, we are told, to reassert ‘white Christian dominance’. Sadly, there would be no use reminding the author that the most traditionalist parts of the Church where the Cardinal enjoys most support are in the ‘global south’, and I would conjecture that if one were to mention the name ‘Cardinal Sarah’ to her, she’d go off on one about women and the Church.

It is, she tells us, Islamophobic to think that “capitulating to Islam would be the death of Christianity”; perhaps she is unaware of the fact that most Islamic States in the Middle East have a zero tolerance policy on the building of Christian Churches in their territory? It may well be that someone should explain to her that Egypt still has a sizeable Christian population and used to be wholly Christian; her homework, should she care to do it, would be to discover why it is no longer so, and what happened to the Copts, and what happens to them every day? That the Cardinal understands that Islam is not represented only by those who attend ecumenical gatherings and write for liberal Western media sources, no doubt makes him aware of the answers to questions the journalist is unaware exists; but it does not make him an ‘Islamophobe’. The fact that he does not join in the neo-liberal war-drums calling for a confrontation with Putin, does not mean he is excusing Putin’s actions in the Ukraine.

Unhindered by a regard for facts or a knowledge of history, the author goes off onto a spectacular rant about the parallels with the 1930s ‘when ethnic nationalism was sweeping Europe under Mussolini and Hitler and when fascist forces infiltrated the highest echelons of the church’. She does acknowledge Pius XI’s protests against Hitler, but argues that it was not focussed on the Jews. The Church protested against persecution, full stop – all persecution. It felt, as it feels now, no need to virtue signal by mentioning only those whom the left things worth mentioning. If she really thinks that the rhetoric used by Burke has anything in common with the virulent anti-semitism of the Nazis, I suggest she learns German and digs out some old copies of Der Sturmer

She tips her hand, naturally, when it comes onto the subject of killing unborn children in the name of the ‘rights’ of women – or abortion, as it is called. Putin’s real crime in her eyes is not the Ukraine, which she does not mention, but his support for ‘pro-life causes’. It is ‘fascist’ to favour the preservation of life in the womb. It is to run a ‘far right’ ‘insurgency’ to advocate adherence to the teaching of the Church from the beginning, and to the very words of Our Lord and Saviour.

If the Post wanted to prove that the Washington.New York media does not understand religion, it has succeeded perfectly. If it wanted to show why no one should believe a word it says about ‘fake news’ it is doing a splendid job. If it really thinks that piece is an example of well-informed journalism, I suggest it takes out a subscription to the Catholic Herald and pays a fee for using some of its well-informed articles. As it stands, it is simply an example of how the hysteria over Trump has led to an over-reaction of massive proportions. The saddest thing of all is that it will, alas, prompt some Catholic sources to wonder whether the fact that such a journalist seems to be promoting Pope Francis, is not another reason to distrust him. The article has the words ‘far right rot’ in its strapline – the words ‘far left rot’ more accurately describe it.

The Pietas.

The first time I visited Rome, and in particular the Basilica of St Peter’s,   I  was profoundly affected by Michael Angelo’s Pietas.  In fact the sculpture of the Pieta is what impresses me than anything else. It’s totally mind expanding.   I tell pilgrims to look at the face of the virgin. They briefly look at the sculpture and then move on to other items of interest.

The statue is on the right at the rear of the Basilica. Unless you’re really looking for it, it’s easy to miss. Very few people pause and take in the profound nature of the sculpture. 800px-michelangelos_pieta_5450

Michelangelo claimed that the block of Carrera marble he used to work on this was the most “perfect” block he ever used, and he would go on to polish and refine this work more than any other statue he created. It is a masterpiece. Just look at the folds of the Virgin’s robes.

The scene of the Pieta shows the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ after his crucifixion, death, and removal from the cross, but before he was placed in the tomb.  This is one of the key events from the life of the Virgin, known as the Seven Sorrows of Mary. ( The Rosary)

It’s very difficult to photograph because there is now a bullet proof plate of glass protecting it. The flash from your camera is reflected back to you.

In 1972, a Hungarian-born man (later found to be mentally disturbed) rushed the statue with a hammer and started hitting it, including the left arm of the Virgin, which came off, and her head, breaking her nose and some of her left eye. It has been restored and no one would even know now.

The face is of a young girl, of Our Lady, when she first gave birth to Jesus.  When her Son was crucified she would have been older by thirty years, yet here she is in the full bloom of her youth.

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Various explanations are given as to why Michael Angelo carved her as a young maiden. However my own interpretation is  different from the traditional views.

The pietas, for all the  sadness and sorrow depicted,  in reality Manifests the Resurrection.  There is a hidden Glory in this work by Michael Angelo. It is as if he is  wanting to show that even as Mary receives the body of her dead Son from the Cross, the 13th station,  the Resurrection of Jesus is restoring her youth,  beauty and above all her grace. Light appears to emanate  from her face, a light that emphasizes her purity and loveliness. The Light  is the Light of the Glorified Christ shining from from the face of the Immaculate Mother of God.

Hail, holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Ave atque vale

“Ave atque vale!” These are the traditional words of valediction at a Roman funeral, and were made famous by Catullus’ poem commemorating the funeral of his brother. They mean, “Hail and farewell!”

The Bible tells us that we too have died and been buried. Our baptism was the funeral service for the old man and the birth-celebration for the new child of God born from above. But we also die on a daily basis. Every day we are called to carry our cross, the instrument of our execution. Every day we are to put the sin nature to death, to re-enact what Christ underwent in His passion.

On the Cross, as His body was dying, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” So it must be with us. We commit our lives to God when we ask Jesus to become our saviour. This is an act of faith: we choose to rely on God to meet our need; we trust in His love and grace.

But God wants to transform the whole person, and this is where our death fits into the picture. We need to say goodbye to the old ways of thinking, the old fears and confidences. We have to let God change every part of us, to shape us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Our insecurities lie in different places, according to the makeup of the individual. One man looks for security in alcohol, another in money, another in political power, and so on. The old man says, “I have a deep need, and this is the only thing that can satisfy it!” The new man says, “Yes I have a need, but nothing on this earth can satisfy it. God alone can fill that hole: apart from Him there is emptiness and sorrow.”

These attitudes are at war with one another: the former looks for solutions in the physical, the temporal, the finite, the imperfect. The latter sees by faith that the answer is found in God, who is spirit, who is eternal, who is infinite, who is perfect.

All we go down to the dust;
and weeping o’er the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. 

Faith sees through the veil of perception. This world of sensations is a world of shadows cast by the true reality of the heavenly dimension. Its pain and pleasure are real; our lives are real; but God is more than this. If we mistake Him for His creation, we become pantheists and fall into logical contradiction.

Non intellego ut credam, sed credo ut intellegam.

Using the Eucharist as Blackmail?

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Since the Synod on the Family we have heard neo-Modernists make the charge that the Catholic Church has been using the Eucharist as a reward for good behavior; in other words a form of blackmail to elicit a behavior that is in keeping with the teachings of the Church. Much of this stems from the truthful words of our Pope when he declared that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

This is of course true; for no one is worthy to receive the Sacrament in reality. But this is not the whole story of why there are certain restraints on people from receiving the Eucharist when they are in a state of mortal sin. It is hard for the world or many protestants to understand the distinction that the Catholic Church makes in regards to sin; specifically, sin which is classified mortal or venial.

Venial sin is a lesser sin whose effect on the soul of a person is to weaken or damage the soul. It is like an illness, which, if left unchecked, will worsen and perhaps lead to death. It can be remitted by sorrow and taken away by reception of the Eucharist while interiorly showing sorrow and remorse for their sin.

But mortal sin is a type of death of the soul and a freewill choice to disobey God in matters concerning gravely sinful acts; thus the name mortal is used to define it. So while venial sin is not serious enough to render the sinner a mortal blow and does not bestow a penalty of hell upon the soul at death, with mortal sin that is not the case: for though a venial sin is perhaps a glance away from God, mortal sin is a deliberate or willful turning of one’s back on God and His commandments. They have effectively broken communion with God and the Church and driven Christ from their soul. For Christ neither forces himself into our souls nor does He refuse to be expelled.

Therefore, there is another sacrament that has been instituted as medicine for those who have committed mortal sin; namely the Rite of Reconciliation or what is commonly known as Confession. The purpose of this sacrament is to restore the soul to the state of Grace that it formerly had before committing a grave sin and who has thereby separated themselves from Christ and His Church and rendered their souls dead . . . being deprived of sanctifying or salvific grace; a special indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the soul. For such people, the reception of the medicine that is God’s indwelling in the soul of the recipient, as He has become the entire bread and wine of this august Sacrament, is not meant to be mocked and scandalized. For Christ cannot and will not inhabit the soul of those who have willfully turned Him out. To receive this sacrament in mortal sin would be a grave sin, willfully acted upon, and thus adding mortal sin to mortal sin.

Likewise, the Sacrament of Penance, has requirements. One must have sorrow for the sin and one must cease to commit the sin and make a good will effort to ‘go and sin no more.’ Otherwise, we have a similar problem as we did with those who received the Blessed Sacrament in a state of mortal sin. For this likewise requires that we do not mock or scandalize the Confessional. Once again to do so is committing another grave sin to be added to the former sin or sins. You cannot lie to Christ without consequences.

This is, quite logically then, why a person who is continuing to live in a state of grave mortal sin, is un-repentent or has no firm purpose of amendment will be denied access to the absolution that they need within Confession. For to do so is to heap sin upon sin.

Now I am not going to reopen the floodgates of all the cloudiness that has been stirred up by Amoris laetitia and that is not my intent. The back and forth regarding ‘grey’ areas and ‘culpability’ etc. can be argued elsewhere for all I care. My intent is to give background to show why the Church does what it does and says what it says. And from this explanation I am hoping that the wider point is to understand the sinfulness of mocking or scandalizing a Sacrament.

My contention is, that if there is use of the Eucharist as blackmail, it is being done by the neo-Modernists who would have you believe that the medicine of the Eucharist should outweigh any complicity with scandal, irreverence and outright disrespect of the Sacrament in order to receive it. For it seems clear to me that people have been so mesmerized by cure that they are willing to overlook sins committed against our Lord in the Tabernacle, so much is their desire to receive Him.

The desire and the thirst to receive our Lord in the Eucharist is laudable and I wish everyone truly believed in the Real Presence of Christ Who awaits us in the Sacrament of Sacraments. But to be forced to take part in frivolity and actions that are demeaning and at times outright scandalous of our faith and belief in the Sacrament seems to me to be counter intuitive. Are we not committing scandal by participation and thereby willfully committing serious sin in order to remit this commission of sin?

I doubt many pastors will see this as a serious sin but then again much has changed. That which got pastors laicized or removed from parishes in the past are now seen as in the mainstream of Catholic practice and thought. So there we have it. A complete mess. Nobody knows what to say, do or believe anymore as there are authoritative voices from every direction who say quite the opposite of one another. The concept of sin itself is being consistently undermined such that the word itself is being rendered useless and parishioners are out on the highways seeking a parish that meets their understanding of what Catholic Teaching demands. It seems to me that when a person remaining in grave sin is no longer culpable of that sin then we have hit an exit ramp from the Church and Her Teachings. But then nobody said that being a Catholic would be easy. In fact, I was warned that the contrary would be true. They proved themselves right.

Of Wolves and Sheep; Enemies and Friends

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Recently Chalcedon wrote a piece entitled, Enemies of the Church?, which has prompted me to expand on the concept of what an enemy or a friend consists and also to explore the radical new concept that we are all ’somehow’ OK from our own points of view and should even befriend our enemies, bear with their subterfuge and listen to their demands for a so-called [but always temporary] peace: for there is always a new demand more dangerous and more harmful to the soul which follows. Every sin that puts a soul at risk has its start in little and seemingly inconsequential things. It is why the spiritual life and the corporal life of a Christian is fraught with so many dangers; satan prowls through this world desiring our souls and is adept at attacks both external and internal; in our interior minds and souls and also in the external world or within the Church Herself.

It is not a new thought to understand the underlying truth that men are all ‘brothers’ beneath the skin and a desire for the Christian to do all in his power to help his fellow men find salvation in the Lord. It is in this regard that we take our understanding of Christ’s words to love our enemies; to live in peace and love as Christian brothers and sisters and to attempt to teach by way of the Gospels the truths of Faith so that the unlearned might one day save his soul has been a way of life from the primitive beginnings of Christianity.

However a false peace has never been proposed and a life, lived without both friends and foes during its lifetime, would simply be a life lived in total isolation. And even then, I think the hermits and desert fathers would attest to enemies that dwell in our own breasts which need to be fought and subdued and are often quite more harmful to our final state than those whom we wrestle with in the world. But to make this idea clear, I would have you understand that I am separating the general from a specific or personal animosity. For such is often a result of misunderstandings, deep seated anger and such sensory appetites that may often lead to very serious sins and scandal. So I speak of a general, non-specific type of enemy [quite often an ideology or heresy] that must be resisted, fought and rejected by way of faith and/or reason that we might not be drawn into their vile or banal modes of living and rejecting the virtues for the baseness of immorality.

Christ likewise showed great concern for His sheep; that they might not be a meal for wolves. He warned them to be aware that there would be wolves that appeared as other sheep. He also warned of shepherds who did not properly act as vicars of the True Shepherd which is always Christ. He called these shepherds hirelings; who bear the name shepherd but in truth are merely doing a job like any other . . . caring more for themselves than the good of the sheep and who run and dodge all dangers that might cost them their lives, reputations, wealth, status, dignity or any other vanity which they relish.

We, like the apostles, were also told by our Lord to extricate ourselves from the midst of those who will not hear the Good News of the gospel and to shake the dust from our sandals as we go. And St. Matthew tells us that that if a sinner or heretic is corrected, first in person in the presence of other witnesses and then publicly before the Church, they should be treated as a heathen and a publican [or other translations have it; a gentile or tax collector]. My Ignatius Catholic study Bible then makes the obvious remark about this verse: ‘The choice of these terms suggest that Jesus requires a policy of non-association with those who are disciplined by leaders of the Church.’ St. Paul makes a similar statement in 2 Corinthians 6:14  “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Of course, as Chalcedon has written quite well about virtue signaling, I suppose we could mark that up as a good example of it. 🙂

Suffice to say that I find great wisdom in recognizing a wolf for a wolf, a hireling as a hireling, and an unbeliever as an unbeliever. And I take refuge in the above words for my instinctual reaction to certain evils in this world to withdraw, separate from or to defend against what is objectively an enemy of the faith.

The same can be said in secular civil society. It is sound advice to separate from those whom will never abide with your society’s way of life and can only do harm to your person and perhaps to your country should they one day influence the laws that govern it. For I am of the opinion that problems arising today in Christianity and in the Western World are caused by one and the same phenomenon. It is a disregard or a complete abandonment of the old laws or Truths and the fundamental precepts of law and order itself, which did not give us a guarantee but did aid in our feelings of security and justice. The enforcing of laws and common truths created a law-abiding society that was substantially peaceful. But without enforcement of such laws we head toward anarchy where no peace is possible.

Of course St. Paul had another way to speak to unbelievers [or enemies of Christ and His Church’] which is today recognized as being very un-Christian in its ‘tone’ and directness. No ecumenist of neo-Modernist worth would ever imagine using such language:

Acts 13:6-12

And when they had gone through the whole island, as far as Paphos, they found a certain man, a magician, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesu:

Who was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, a prudent man. He sending for Barnabas and Saul, desired to hear the word of God.

But Elymas the magician (for so his name is interpreted) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith.

Then Saul, otherwise Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, looking upon him,

10 Said: O full of all guile, and of all deceit, child of the devil, enemy of all justice, thou ceasest not to pervert the right ways of the Lord.

11 And now behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a time. And immediately there fell a mist and darkness upon him, and going about, he sought some one to lead him by the hand.

12 Then the proconsul, when he had seen what was done, believed, admiring at the doctrine of the Lord.

Verse 10 is rather harsh for our modern ears but then, we cannot blame Paul for this outburst because we are told in verse 9 that it was the Holy Ghost that said these things through him. But I would say that our enemies in society and the Church are those who might ought to have similar words applied to them. For they also are full of guile and full of deceit. As well they are for all purposes a child of the devil and the enemy of all justice who never cease to pervert the Church or our civil society. They need not be struck blind physically for they are blind spiritually and if they cannot be converted  to civility or to the Truth of Christ then must be abandoned in their blindness. One can only pray that Christ takes away their blindness and sets them on a path back to both civility and Truth. Then perhaps they might find one to lead them from their blindness.

May law and order reign throughout society and may the Truth be recognized and followed as relentlessly and tirelessly as a policeman in pursuit of a hot donut. These are those whom I consider my friends on earth. The rest of my friends reside in purgatory or heaven.

God Save the Queen?

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Queen Diamond Jubilee

Neo’s post yesterday was a deserved tribute to a Head of State who, unlike many others, attracts no opprobrium and who has no axes to grind or agenda to pursue. She is Queen by Grace of God, and as a practising Anglican she takes that seriously; this is, for her, a sacred trust and she cannot just hand it over because she feels tired or would like a more restful life. She has, of course, the example of her uncle David before her, the Edward VIII, who found he could not discharge his duty without the woman he loved by his side, and slipped off into gilded exile and a life of pointless hedonism. Ironically, he might be said to represent the modern way of being; what mattered to him were his feelings and his personal fulfilment; that it all ended as it did, on a dying fall, in a life which achieved nothing, with the great gifts he had been given going to waste, might not surprise those such as the Queen who find that duty is a better guide to a life well-lived.

Duty is much out of fashion in our world. It has connotations of the things the world most hates – self-denial and even self-sacrifice, with no thought of reward. What’s the deal, it seems to say? I live this one life I have for others? What about the most important person in the world, ME? Who lives for ME?’ The Christian message tells us this is not the only life, and that we do not live it for ourselves except in what, to the secular mind, seems the oddest way. Here, in this vale of tears, we prepare ourselves for the life of the world to come, and hope, pray and work that we might be fit for it. That does not mean that we can, in any wise, merit our salvation, but it does mean we can witness to the mercy and the grace we have received by following the example of the Lord through whom we are redeemed.

In the case of the Queen, this has meant a life of service to the country. It would be easy, which is why it happens so often, for the cynic to say how nice it must be to have all your wants supplied in return for duties which are often largely ceremonial; but as usual, the cynic misses the point. The Queen is a symbol of national unity, and her very longevity in an age of such rapid change has helped hold together a nation which otherwise might have found itself bewildered by it. That she is a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother enables people far removed from her to find points of identification; being Queen does not mean your children make fairy-tale marriages and live happily ever after.

But through the bad times and the good, through the long journey from Empire, through decolonisation, Europe and now Brexit, there is one constant – Queen Elizabeth II. She is a reminder that our system of government is not merely secular. At her coronation she was anointed with sacred oil, and she consecrated herself in God’s presence to the service of the nation. She does it not for herself, but because she told God she would do it. God’s response we can see daily. We shall not, unless we are very fortunate, look on her like again – so God save the Queen!

Clouds

Sometime ago I came upon this beautiful metaphor.

“Just as a white summer cloud,  in harmony with heaven and earth freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon, following the breath of the atmosphere  – in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the greater life that wells up from the depths of his being and the universality of a greater life.”

I’ve pondered those lines over many years, especially living where I do, because here in the South West tip of Cornwall we have the most spectacular cloud formations.

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Clouds play a very significant roll in the Bible. We have  only to think of the wilderness wanderings – the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night leading the children of Israel. Then there is Moses who whenever he enters the tent of meeting, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent and the Lord would speak with Moses. There is the passage in Exodus 19 where the Lord said to Moses,”Behold I shall come to you in a thick Cloud, in order that that the people may hear when I speak with you.”

We are told in the same chapter “So it came about on the third day, when it was morning that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound…Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire.

The cloud theme is continued in the New Testament. The transfiguration is one such example.

“Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘this s my Beloved Son, listen to Him'” Mark 9:7.

Acts 1: 9 tells us of the last appearance of Jesus after his resurrection.

“And after he had said these things, He was lifted up whilst they were looking on, and a cloud received him out of sight.

In both the Old and New Testaments the Cloud is a significant symbol of the Lord’s presence, of God. We can also apply the symbol of the cloud as representing the Holy Spirit in our own lives.

As Christians the cloud may be viewed as the creative power of the mind under the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Just as a white summer cloud,  in harmony with heaven and earth freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon, following the breath of the atmosphere  – in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the greater life that wells up from the depths of his being and the universality of a greater life.” And that Greater Life is the Life of Christ.

Sapphires and Duty

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Queen Elizabeth II waves to well wishers from a open top Range Rover in Windsor, Berkshire, as she celebrates her 90th birthday.

Queen Elizabeth II waves to well wishers from a open top Range Rover in Windsor, Berkshire, as she celebrates her 90th birthday.

Yesterday was the sixty-fifth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. By all reports, she spent it quietly at Sandringham, in Norfolk, where her father, the King died 65 years ago. She is now the longest reigning monarch in British History. And the only one to have parachuted into the Olympics!

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith wrote about it in the Catholic Herald. He makes a couple of points, I want to emphasize.

The second thing about the Queen that comes to mind is her unshowy devotion to duty. It really is not about her at all, but about the nation, and of course, the Commonwealth. She serves us, not the other way around. In 65 years she has never failed in her duty. This makes her not simply the most remarkable and admirable woman in the country, but perhaps in the world. Her style is in marked contrast to the celebrity culture that is all around us.

How rare that is amongst our people these days. To stick to your duty all your life, even as a quite young woman in the Second World War we could see that. In fact, for her, it is a family trait evident in both of her parents throughout their lives. We try, she flat did it. And a most difficult duty as well. She has done, no that is incorrect, she is doing it admirably. And that is instructive. Her job is one that pretty much denies her any privacy, or even a chance to ever do as she pleases, and yet she has serenely done that duty for sixty-five years, ever since a girl in a Kenyan tree became Queen of England (and all the rest). Not least amongst those titles: “Defender of the Faith”.

He continues

Fourthly, and perhaps the most important of all, as is clear to anyone who has been listening to her Christmas broadcasts over the years, the Queen is a Christian. She is a particular type of Christian, a Low Church Anglican, of the sort who makes little outward show of her faith. But it is certainly there, and it has sustained her over these 65 years. The way she has acted over the last six-and-a-half decades is a tribute to that faith.

via On her Sapphire Jubilee, the Queen remains a wonderful inspiration to all – CatholicHerald.co.uk

Important? Yes. And perhaps it is the most remarkable of all. The queen has kept her faith (and the faith) for her entire reign while so-called progress has stormed about her, and many of her storm-tossed subjects have had theirs rocked, and sometimes lost. In fact, she is on her fifth Archbishop of Canterbury, and Eisenhower had just become the US president when she became Queen.

It’s been at best a turbulent 65 years, and nobody has shown us better what we can be, should be, and yes, must be, if we are to continue what we started those long years ago at the court of Alfred the Great of Wessex, and yes, in Philadelphia City some 241 years ago, as well. For we Yanks too, find in her a steadying point, one who has been there and done that, although probably not so vulgar as to have bought the T-shirt. Indeed the champion of Western Civilization, itself.

God Save the Queen

[Crosssposted from Nebraskaenergyobserver]