Letter from the Rectory March 2013
A Dissenter’s Hail Mary
You bore him, fed him, clothed him, led him,
you carried him, suckled him, sang him to sleep.
You nursed him, enfolded him, encouraged him, scolded him,
you suffered him, moved him to laugh (and to weep).
You were the chosen one, you were the maiden.
He was yours before he was ours.
With your flesh the Word was laden,
Seed of eternity, Hope of the years.
For your obedience, your faith and your firmness,
for your humility, tenderness, grace,
sinners salute you, presume to say ‘Thank you’,
who love him and serve him, but had not your place.
Mary’s place should be honoured in our prayers. She is our sister-in-faith; too young to be our mother, although we call
her ‘Mother of God’. And there’s our difficulty. As children of the reformation, we find her titles (Mother of God; Queen of heaven)
get in the way. At the reformation our ancestors rejected the cult of Mary,
but their rejection, fuelled by the New Learning at the universities, was too harsh. Country people, brought up to honour Mary in
their parish church with candles and images as a focus for their prayer, were bewildered when their beloved statues were smashed
and their devotions scorned by the clever-clogs from town.
Richard Graye was rector of Withyham during those turbulent years. One source records that he was instituted rector in 1540
(not 1576 as indicated on our rectors’ board in church) and held the living through four Tudor reigns, at a time when the church
swung backwards and forwards between Rome, Geneva and Canterbury. What could he and his parishioners do as church officialdom removed,
then replaced, and finally destroyed the altar and its ornaments in Withyham church’s north aisle, the one they called
‘the Lady aisle’ in honour of Mary? His will shows him as a conscientious priest and pastor. It is improbable that he and
his parishioners ceased to honour Mary in their prayers, whatever the official view might be. The ‘Hail Mary,’ like the
‘Our Father’, was a prayer they learnt at their mother’s knee; it was deeply rooted in their souls. It took two generations
for the ‘Hail Mary’ to drop out of the prayers of Englishmen and women - to our loss.
March 25th, Lady Day, commemorates the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel first spoke the words Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee, which were then amplified by those of her cousin Elizabeth, Blessed art thou among women, blessed is
the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Letter from the Rectory February 2013
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn from sin and be faithful to Christ
Those are the words spoken by the priest on Ash Wednesday as he places a smudge of ash on the foreheads of the people.
It is a traditional ceremony, revived in our times as a sign of the spirit of penitence.
Morbid? Not if you consider its meaning. What is morbid is a flippant disregard of our own condition. Ash Wednesday,
the first day of Lent, is an annual reminder to take ourselves seriously and to heed our final destination on this earth.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
But that is not all. Dust – yes; ashes – yes; but there is hope, too; hope for us all. Without the recognition of our
sinfulness, forgiveness and hope lose their power to heal. Without repentance there is no remisssion. Without death there
is no resurrection. It is in resurrection that we believe, not immortality.
In Advent the choir sang this ancient carol; in it Our Lord utters the bleak reminder:
Remember O thou man, O thou man, O thou man,
Remember, O thou man, thy time is spent:
Remember, O thou man, how thou cam’st to me then,
And I did what I can,
The Ash Wednesday Collect, repeated daily throughout Lent, shines a bright beam of light into the dark.
‘Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that
are penitent, create and make in us new and contrite hearts..’ Cranmer based this collect on the pre-reformation
prayer for blessing the ashes. Just as God lovingly created Adam from the dust of the ground, breathing into him his
Holy Spirit, so he lovingly and continuously recreates us from the dust of our lives.
Letter from the Rectory December 2012 and January 2013
WINTER’S PROCESSION. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Candlemas: these are the four stages of our winter journey. Starting in
December with the solemn themes of Advent and the candlelight of Christingle, we move in solemn progress to Bethlehem for Christmas.
Twelve days later, on 6th January, we come to Epiphany in time for the arrival of the Wise Men bearing their mysterious gifts. Then,
six weeks after Christmas (the Biblical forty days) we enter Jerusalem for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple
(Candlemas). There is a symmetry here between the forty days of Christmas, concluding with Candlemas, and the forty days of Easter,
concluding with the Feast of the Ascension.
EPIPHANY. The Feast of the Epiphany is often overlooked. Not only does the 6th January usually fall on a weekday, but the
story of the adoration of the Wise Men, or Magi, tends to get swallowed up in the story of the Nativity. Biblically, however, the
two events were quite distinct, being separated by a period of up to two years. In real time the Wise Men, or Kings, did not arrive
at Bethlehem until long after the events celebrated at Christmas and Candlemas. Still, we should not be too pedantic in our
chronology of worship. The Church, for the purpose of annual celebration, has compressed the events of Our Lord’s life into the
four months between 25th December and 25th April, and for that reason anomalies in her liturgical calendar are bound to arise.
And so, in defiance of strict chronology, the Church keeps the Feast of the Epiphany and commemorates the Wise Men not two years,
but two weeks after Christmas. At Withyham we shall be observing this on Sunday 6th January with an All Age Eucharist and Procession.
CANDLEMAS. When Joseph and Mary brought their baby son to the temple (Luke 2: 22-39), they were told by Simeon that he would
be ‘a light to lighten the gentiles’. The candles at Candlemas, which we will celebrate on Sunday 3rd February, recall these
words. This festival concludes our Winter procession. We then prepare for our Spring procession as we move through Ash Wednesday
and the forty days of Lent towards the darkness of Calvary and the glorious dawn of Easter.
Letter from the Rectory November 2012
I heard of a man, an academic theologian, so caught up in his thoughts, that he had little time to consider the trivia
of daily life. Rising in the morning, shaving, brushing his teeth, dressing, tying his shoe laces, eating, drinking: such
things were distractions from the purpose of his solitary life. To manage them he adopted, as most of us do, a routine by
which these commonplace actions could be performed unconsciously, each triggering the next. The toothbrush, the flannel,
the razor, the towel were just the beginning of a sequence of automatic manoeuvres which extended via the kettle, the coffee,
the car, the commute, lectures, meetings, tutorials and so on, through the waking hours of day until their conclusion was
reached at night via the kettle, the nightcap, the hot water bottle, the toothbrush, prayer and sleep.
By such a strategy he claimed to set his mind free to consider the higher things of life. All the while that he performed
‘the trivial round, the common task’, attending to them with the barest minimum of mental and emotional energy, the vast
engine of his mind turned ceaselessly and silently through the endless revolutions of abstract thought. He was, was he not,
the greatest living expert on the Chalcedonian Definition. His paper on the Eutychian heresy delivered at a recent international
symposium on Patristics in the University of Uppsala was said to be the last word on that fraught and well-worn topic.
Then, one morning something went wrong. Chancing to go upstairs to the bathroom to remove a speck from his eye (he had finished
breakfast and was about to go to work), he caught sight of his toothbrush. At the time he was thinking about the second epistle
of St Cyril (well, he would be, wouldn’t he?). The motor of routine kicked in. Unconsciously his hand picked up the brush, and
cleaned his teeth. Slowly he undressed, put on his pyjamas, folded only an hour before, said his prayers and went to bed.
Outside his house the twentieth century went roaring past along the Woodstock Road, and all the while inside his head the vast
and silent engine of his mind went round and round and round and round.
We live on several levels of reality, you and I. The trick is not to lose touch with any of them; not to disconnect the trivial
from the serious, the routine from the rare. Each feeds the other. Prayer, that often forgotten little bit of business (a hurried
‘Our Father’ as one wakes; a brief committal into God’s safe keeping as one lies down to sleep), inhabits the upper level of the
mind, keeping company with toothbrush and flannel, but its repeated utterance connects with the deepest level of the soul which all
the while, ceaselessly and silently, unfolds beneath the gentle influence of the Creator’s forgiving love.
Letter from the Rectory October 2012
Some of you have just said goodbye to your sons and daughters as they headed off to university for the start of a new life.
You may have reflected, as you drove away from the campus with an empty car, that parting is such sweet sorrow. Well, up to a point.
You will soon learn that they will return. Oh, yes, they will come back again and again and again. They still need you. This is
what a student, Paul Behain, wrote to his widowed mother in Nuremberg in 1574:
‘Dear Mother...I have used the money from the sale of my horse to have the simplest coarse green clothing made for myself – a
doublet with modest trim, pleatless hose and hooded coat..Lest you think things are cheap here, all this has cost me approximately
17 or 18 crowns, even though it was as plain and simple as it could be. I could not have been more amazed when I saw the bill than
you will be when I send it to you.’
You may ask what the boy did with the money from the horse, if his tailor’s bill remained unpaid. Ah, well, life can be sweet at eighteen,
can it not, and devilish expensive. But, then, what’s a parent for if not to pick up the tab?
Another worry you may face is your children’s sudden change of career choice. Just as you had planned for your daughter a
safe career in law, she tells you that she wants to go on the stage. Mr and Mrs Zebedee must have wondered what their sons,
James and John, were doing when one day they threw up their secure future in the family business to go after that young preacher
Their story, like so much in the Gospel narrative, is tantalisingly sketchy. However, it does give us just enough detail to glimpse
the support given by their families to those young men, including the one from Nazareth, as they followed the dream which led them
to Jerusalem and the redemption of the human race. The women who provided for them while they were on the road ‘out of their
resources’ (Luke 8: 1-3) – who were they, if not their mothers, aunts and older sisters?
A cynic might snort at the comparison. Young Paul Behain’s tailor’s bill can in no way be likened to the cost to their parents
of the disciples’ vocation. But who knows? The feckless youth with his green doublet and hose might have grown up to be like his
late father – a successful merchant and worthy citizen of Nuremberg. The panache and sheer cheek of his letter boded well for his
future. As his mother paid the bill, she had no way of knowing how he would turn out.
He may have come good, or he may have grown up a wastrel, a charming rogue, a prodigal son like the one in the parable - with a
patient and forgiving parent.
Letter from the Rectory September 2012
Who or why or which or WHAT
is the Akond of Swat?
Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and coffee cold,
Or HOT – the Akond of Swat? (Edward Lear)
Titles, even those which mean we know not what, have their own magic. How wonderful to
bear the appellation Clarenceux King of Arms. How gratifying to be known as Gold
Stick in Waiting. What fun to fill in all those dreary forms with the declaration that
one’s occupation is that of a manciple.
The Church has its share of strange titles: Archdeacon and Suffragan Bishop, to name two.
An archdeacon is the bishop’s disciplinary officer (makes sure the clergy behave themselves)
and administrative officer. He has been called the Bishop’s Eye (oculus episcopi). In a
former age, when bishops were absent on royal duties or government service, the diocese was
run by the archdeacon. His work entailed much riding about the diocese, and for that reason
he wore gaiters. The gaiters have gone, but the mileage remains.
A Suffragan Bishop is a bishop who assists the Diocesan Bishop. Most dioceses have at
least one suffragan. Because Chichester is such a large diocese, containing the whole of
Sussex, our diocesan has two suffragans (Horsham and Lewes). Most lay people will only
encounter a bishop at their confirmation or at the institution of their rector or vicar.
When the local priest is licensed to his ‘cure’ (his ‘care’ – ie the parish in his care),
the bishop says to him ‘Receive the cure of souls which is both yours and mine; in the Name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. The bishop’s chair, present in the
chancel every parish church, is a reminder of the bishop’s authority delegated to the parish
There are in our diocese two archdeacons. Ours is the Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings,
and he will be preaching at the All Age Eucharist on Sunday 9th September, 11 am, and joining
us afterwards at the barbecue in the rectory garden. The Bishop of Horsham will be here on
Sunday 7th October, 11 am, when he will be confirming eight adults from our congregation.
I invite you all to be present at both these important services.
Please put these two dates in your diary. It will be good to have a full church to
celebrate these important events in the life of our parish.
Letter from the Rectory August 2012
Suddenly there are candles everywhere. No longer to lighten our path. Electricity does that well enough. Candlelight,
that ancient invention, has found so many new uses: on the dinner table to celebrate a feast; on the cake to mark an
anniversary; in the alcove to add lustre and beauty to a dark corner; on the roadside to mourn a sudden death; and
gathering in multitudes on the steps of public buildings to voice a silent protest or proclaim a jubilee.
If you are going to the continent this summer for your holiday, you may find yourself visiting a great cathedral – say,
Chartres or Cologne or Palermo – or you may chance upon the cool shade of an unremarkable parish church, and escape the
blistering glare of the Mediterranean sun. There you will probably see, once you have got used to the dark, a cluster of
candles burning on a stand in one of the chapels. Like a growing number of tourists you may be moved to drop a coin in
the box and light a candle and – and what?
‘Je ne sais comment prier’, says a notice next to the candle-stand in Sens Cathedral -
‘I do not know how to pray. I do not know what to say.
I do not have much time. This candle is something of what I have.
Something of my time, something of myself that I leave
Before the Lord. This light that shines is my prayer.’
Or you might remember someone you know back home who is in trouble, sorrow, need or sickness, and let the candle burn
for them. And, later, don’t be shy to tell them. Gestures of affection are never wasted.
Or you might just be silent, and reflect with T S Eliot when you light that small candle that you are standing where
others have prayed and in a place -
‘Where prayer is valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.’
Wherever and however you spend your summer holiday, may you find refreshment and recreation of body, mind and spirit.
Letter from the Rectory July 2012
A friend of mine recently gave me a book entitled ‘Saints and Sinners of the Marches’, compiled by Michael Tavinor,
Dean of Hereford. It is a delightful volume, full of facts, quotations and pictures about the worthies and unworthies
of Herefordshire and the Welsh Borders. The title does, however, beg the question: who is a saint and who is a sinner?
Easy, you might say, Byron (yes, he’s in there, having had a brief connection with Herefordshire) was a sinner, while,
on the other hand, Woolos, the 6th century monk of Monmouth, who swam regularly and prayerfully in the freezing river
with his wife Gwladys, and then ran about with no clothes on, was a saint – must have been, either that or mad.
But it is not as simple as that. Our perception of other people’s goodness or sinfulness is bound to be inaccurate.
Besides, our knowledge of ourselves and of others convinces us that it is part of the human condition that every man,
woman, boy and girl is compounded of good and evil. Only one human being has been perfect: Jesus Christ.
The original word ‘saint’ did not denote a person’s goodness, but his or her discipleship. When St Paul uses the
term ‘saints’ in his letters, he is referring to all the Christians gathered in one place; in Rome, say, or Corinth or
Ephesus. They were all saints because they were all called to be followers of Christ, set apart by his grace. The goodness
was Christ’s, not theirs. You and I are saints by virtue of our being called to follow Our Lord, a vocation conferred by
Baptism. How far we fall short of his perfection is manifestly evident to all.
However, the Church over the centuries adopted the convenient title ‘Saint’ to denote those who had made a singular
contribution to the community of faith or to society at large. At first, the title was conferred informally and as a result
of local initiative. In Saxon times every community liked to honour its own worthies, and nearly every local church had its
own local saint complete with his or her own eccentric reputation (skinny-dipping while reciting the psalter or living in a
cave or whatever).
Later in the Middle Ages the Church sought to tidy things up. Only those candidates for the title ‘saint’ who had undergone
a lengthy and searching process by the Roman Curia would be recognised as such. When the Church in England broke her links with
Rome, becoming the Church of England, the former process of making a saint (canonisation) was no longer accessible to her. For
four centuries no new names were added to the Anglican Calendar of Saints, until recently when we have been adding new names
without resorting to the cumbersome procedures still employed by Rome. In July, for example, we honour the memory of John Keble
(July 14th) and William Wilberforce (30th July). Saints or Sinners? Well, as always, neither, but a mixture of both.
Letter from the Rectory June 2012
Where were you on Wednesday 6th February 1952 at about 10.45 am? That was the moment when the BBC announced the death of
King George VI. It was also the moment when Princess Elizabeth became Queen – such is the unbroken continuity of the British
Constitution. Where were you at that moment – if indeed you were alive sixty years ago. I was sitting in a classroom with about
20 other bored teenagers listening to a remarkably patient teacher as he explained the second law of thermodynamics. The subject
was designated ‘Science for non-scientists’, which was a give-away. Not only were we non-scientists, we were ‘non’ almost everything
else. We were all fourteen years old. The worst age.
Halfway through his discourse the master was interrupted by the arrival of a prefect bearing a written message. He read it,
paused and then said, ‘Gentlemen, the lesson is suspended. The King has died. Please stand.’ The awe and solemnity were palpable;
so palpable that even callow youth sensed the shock.
Inevitably a Royal Jubilee is the anniversary of a departure as well as an arrival: The King is dead, Long live the King (or,
in this case, the Queen). Also inevitably, and understandably, it is the Queen’s accession and not her father’s death we commemorate.
However, during those bleak February days sixty years ago the sombre mood of a nation mourning her King had to be experienced before
we could move on to enjoy the coronation of his daughter. Added to the burden of her unexpected accession, she herself had to endure
the loss of a beloved father, and to do so in the glare of one of the most public offices on earth.
What happened to those 20 ‘non scientists’? Well, they grew up, some to become lawyers, some accountants, some broadcasters,
some pastors and teachers. One became a composer, one a circuit judge, and one, possibly the gentlest and most civilised of us all,
a member of MI6. Having left school, our paths rarely crossed. New patterns of friendship replaced the old. I do wonder, however,
whether the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has triggered in their minds faint memories of the classroom where they were and the people
they were with on that Wednesday morning when the new reign began.
A nation needs shared symbols and events by which to construct and celebrate her nationhood. You can rattle off a list easily
enough: Big Ben, the Union Jack, the Cenotaph, Wimbledon, Blackpool Tower, Ascot, the Cup Final ...and so on. Our country is lucky
in having as its most potent symbol the Queen. Not only is she a focus for the United Kingdom in 2012, but over the past sixty years
she has created a vast network of shared memories in the minds of millions of her subjects, of whom those 20 ‘non-scientists’ are
just a tiny part.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
Letter from the Rectory May 2012
The appointment of bishops has always been chancy. The first vacancy to be filled was created by the defection of Judas.
The process from nomination to election, recorded in the first chapter of Acts, was concluded in an evening. Two names were
put forward: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. The church prayed. Lots were cast. Matthias got the job. We need not believe
that God loaded the dice. It was chance. Quick, but risky.
The process of selecting today’s bishops is not so simple. By the time you read this, the Bishop of Chichester will have
retired, and the process of selecting his successor will begin. A ‘Vacancy in See Committee’ will gather opinion from the
diocese and produce a Statement of Needs, which will suggest the kind of person the diocese would like to have as its next
bishop. This statement is passed to the Crown Appointments Commission. The Commission consists of: The two Archbishops,
three members elected from the General Synod's House of Clergy , three members elected from the General Synod's House of
Laity, and six members elected from the Vacancy-in-See Committee. Beyond these fourteen voting members, the Prime Minister's
appointments secretary and the Archbishops' appointments secretary will be there with information on possible candidates.
The Commission meets several times in secret. It then forwards two names, indicating its preference, to the Prime Minister,
who chooses one of them. If the chosen individual accepts the office, the Prime Minister advises the Sovereign, who then
formally nominates the chosen candidate. Then the diocese's College of Canons meets in the chapter house at the cathedral
to 'elect' the new bishop. More of a confirmation than an election. The whole process takes months, sometimes leaving the
see vacant for as long as a year.
It used to be quicker. In October 1908 when the Archbishop of York announced his retirement at the end of the year,
his successor, Cosmo Gordon Lang, was named by the Crown within four weeks. Lang moved into residence on 1st January,
the day after his predecessor laid down his office. He was legally confirmed in his new post shortly after. The interregnum
lasted one day short of three weeks.
And what part, you may ask, does God play in the process of selection? There are two ways of understanding divine
providence. Either you believe that God intervenes directly, pre-empting the decision by loading the dice. Or you believe
that God allows chance, human judgement or error, and a hundred other variables to play their part, and then encompasses
the result. I incline to the latter view, which is why whatever the system of election may be - and the differences between
those used in AD 33, 1908 and 2012 could hardly be greater - God’s will can be done in and through the method appropriate
to its time, be it autocratic, democratic or by the toss of a coin.
Letter from the Rectory April 2012
The earliest Christian symbol was a fish scratched on catacomb walls in ancient Rome. It is thought to have been used as a secret sign
by the Early Church in times of persecution, and derives from an acrostic from the Greek word ichthus (fish), the five
Greek letters are the initials of the Greek for ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’.
‘In this sign thou shalt conquer’. Those were the words the Emperor Constantine heard on 28th October, 312 AD, as he saw
in the sky the ancient Christian monogram (the Chi Ro) depicting the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ.
According to legend this happened just before he defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, thereby becoming
undisputed Emperor of the Roman Empire. The event led to his conversion to Christianity and its establishment as the official
religion of the Empire. The Greek letter for ‘Ch’ (as in ‘chorus’) was sometimes used as an abbreviation of ‘Christ’ (as in Xmas).
The letters INRI,referring to the Passion of Our Lord and used in art and on church embroidery, are the initials of the four
Latin words which Pilate ordered to be placed upon the Cross: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews).
But, of course, it is the Cross itself which has become the universally recognised symbol of our Faith. We are baptised with the
sign of the Cross. A priest blesses us and pronounces absolution with the sign of the Cross. Christians at prayer make the sign
of the Cross (in the Catholic West, which includes us, we cross ourselves from left to right; in the Orthodox East they cross
themselves from right to left). So widely used has this sacred sign become that its meaning is often lost. Even so, we should
not be offended when athletes and footballers cross themselves, as they sometimes do, before running a race or taking a penalty
kick, though the spectacle of the badge of Christ’s cosmic victory reduced to a lucky
charm may raise a quizzical eyebrow in heaven. Nor should we be so churlish as to cavil at the sight of a jewelled cross upon
a lady’s necklace. Surely the irony of turning an instrument of death into a beautiful ornament is not lost on the Saviour who
died on that same Cross to save us all. Besides, it is not charitable, nor is it wise, to cast doubts upon the sincerity of
another’s faith. The late Tsarina of all the Russias at dinner in full fig may indeed have worn a diamond-encrusted Fabergé cross,
but none could doubt the devotion she gave her crucified Lord.
Of the compelling power of his death on the Cross Jesus said, ‘I , if I am lifted up, will draw all men unto me,’ but he also said,
‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ Good Friday challenges us all to take
seriously his Cross and ours.
Letter from the Rectory March 2012
‘My love’s like a red, red rose’ sang Robert Burns, and we all know what he meant. It is our habit to express our
emotions in terms of physical phenomena. Love is a rose, courage is a lion, envy is green, fear holds us in its icy
grip and patience sits on a monument smiling at grief.
Our language, and to a certain extent our thought, is constructed from and confined by the physical condition of our
existence. We are compelled to speak of abstractions in material terms. We grasp an idea and weigh an argument. We
see a difficulty and scent a danger. Mental process is described by touch, weight, sight, smell: metaphor is the
default position of almost all our conversation Then why, you might wonder, do people who are so accustomed to this
well used and necessary device in our daily lives, suddenly become stubbornly literal in their understanding (or,
one might say, wilful misunderstanding) of the language of religion?
Someone once told me that he had discovered the basic flaw in Christian belief. He had found, he claimed, conclusive
proof that the God we profess to believe in cannot possibly exist, at least not in the way the Bible describes. ‘I’ll
show you what I mean,’ he said. ‘You call him your Father in heaven, don’t you?’ ‘That’s right,’ I said. ‘Well, he
can’t be. And I’ll tell you why,’ and here he paused, before uttering what he believed would be the ultimate demolition
of all the nonsense of religion. ‘He can’t be your father – he hasn’t got a wife.’
So much time has been wasted and ill-feeling generated by the debate about the creation story in the first chapter of
the Book of Genesis. Read as a literal description of the beginning of time it makes little sense, but read as it was
intended to be read, as a poem of wonder and as a prayerful meditation on the glory of the universe, it is as true today
as it was when first composed.
There is nothing at all incompatible between this ancient song of Creation and the Darwinian theory of evolution. One
is a poem and uses a metaphorical narrative to celebrate the wonder and meaning of creation; the other is a scientific
theory and uses observation and analysis to account for the different forms of life and how they came to be the way
they are. One is about meaning, answering the question ‘why?’; the other is about method, and answers the question ‘how?’
Both share the belief that the universe is a coherent whole in which mankind belongs together with all other living species.
Here is another beautiful meditation on Creation:
‘The sun is but a little spark of God’s infinite love. The sea is but one drop of his goodness. But what flames of
love ought that spark to kindle in your soul; what seas of affection ought to flow for that drop in your bosom.’ Thomas
Traherne (1663-1674) .
Letter from the Rectory February 2012
St Basil the Great had some wise words to say about Lenten fasting:
Do not limit the benefit of fasting merely to abstinence from food, for a true fast means refraining from evil.
Loose every unjust bond, put away your resentment against your neighbour, forgive him his offences.
He wrote those words sixteen hundred years ago, but nothing changes. Resentment of one sort or another remains
a corrosive evil in our lives, ‘an unjust bond’.
Resentment ties us up in knots. At worst it can seriously cripple our lives, injuring not only ourselves, but
those around us. How hard we find it to untangle ourselves from our own anger at past injuries, real or imagined.
At best it can turn us into petulant bores: always grumbling about some petty grievance or other, and driving our
nearest and dearest mad.
I used to find myself getting enraged by a particular TV weather forecaster, until, that is, I was firmly told
to shut up. The rebuke was deserved: the knot was cut. I can now watch Sian Lloyd in a reasonable, almost happy,
frame of mind. (Sorry, Sian; I hope you never read this).
Being untied, or released from anger (and that usually means being released from the past) is what enables us
to grow, to move forward. And that is as true of communities and nations as it is of individuals. Personally,
I love the past. I am absorbed by TV documentaries about history. I believe that valuing our past (and that
means cherishing the good things and coming to terms with the bad) is necessary for healthy growth. But we do
need to be free of the past, not enslaved by it.
We need to be released from the unjust bonds of resentment or guilt. Repentance means a quiet turning away from
our own faults and the faults of others – not a constant scratching at the sore, nor an obsessive and continuous
returning to the scene of the crime.
God has promised us that he is ready to absolve us (untie us), but we have to allow him to do it. We have to
let go of our past. Then we can go forward. Then we can grow.