Archive | December, 2019


30 Dec

Generally the word epiphany means an unexpected moment of inspiration. Many years ago as a young child I remember Benediction – a ceremony of mystery, blessing, incense and song. I still love to sing to myself (don’t want to disturb others) the last 2 verses of the Pange lingua that we sang at Benediction – Tantum Ergo.  Latin was the language of ceremonies in the Catholic Church before the 1960’s (and Vatican II). My epiphany tells me I must try to treat all nature accordingly since I believe in the whole of creation being God’s and perhaps focus less on the ‘religious’ ceremonies, yet I still like to sing this Latin hymn. This, because after last week’s jotting (scroll down to see it) I have given the words my own understanding. Whereas once for me (and in the author’s mind) sacramentum referred to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the ‘nove ritui’ meant the rituals of the church, now, as I sing, my epiphany makes me think of the sacredness of all in the universe and of the way each according to its status should be treated. So, as I enjoy singing the Latin I think of my new interpretation (and potential translation) shown here:-

Tantum ergo sacramentum                                 Hence the universal sacredness

Veneremur cernui:                                                Let us reverence with bowing:

Et antiquum documentum                                   And the previous understanding

Nove cedat ritui;                                                     Gives way to new holy actions;

Praestet fides supplementum                              Faith gives this addition

Sensuum defectui.                                                 To the inadequacy of how things seem.

Listen here to the Latin if you like.

God’s family

23 Dec

I like to think of the church as a (extended) family, since we do generally share beliefs and morals in common. In addition I want to take the word ‘church’ to include free churches, Baptist, Methodist, Church of Scotland, Episcopalian, Anglican, and various Orthodox churches as well as Roman Catholics (all Christians). But no – that’s not enough! I want to think of all human beings as God’s people – a group to which I certainly belong. But lest you think that’s enough I really try and would like to include all creatures, all creation, ranging from galaxies to subatomic particles. All are continually being kept in existence by God – the God I believe in is active and present everywhere all the time. Christians believe that God Himself entered this extensive, universal, group in the human, Jewish person of Jesus.

So what? This is what I often want to ask when I hear some new idea. My idea is that in the whole of creation there is a real presence of God actively creating and sustaining. Believing this of all God’s creation, I ought to treat accordingly all its various ingredients, especially myself and other people. So when I celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, I don’t just think of Mary and Joseph, nor even just we Christians – I try to consider all people (and actually even all things) as being sustained even now and every moment by God. Gosh! I feel a New Year Resolution coming on – but best not to aim too high, just starting with something I can attain if I try and persevere!


16 Dec

Saint John Henry Newman had an attitude to scripture that was not the enthusiastic, knowledgeable and reverent attitude he was brought up with. Nor was it the dogmatic, literal and superior approach that he experienced in his later years, but it was an acceptance and understanding that the themes running through the bible were more instructive and meaningful than short or isolated quotes.

For example birth indicates the beginning of something new – such as with Abraham’s offspring Isaac and Jacob, or Moses with his youth in the Egyptian context, and royal David, seen as both king and author of psalms. This theme of the Old Testament is from birth to some new and even exciting future era. It’s a pattern and theme.

This is the theme at the beginning of the New Testament in the gospels of Matthew and Luke with regard to the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. It is told as such a unique and transforming event that in some way it brings all previous stories of births to a climax. This aspect of fulfilment indicates a miraculous transformation of humanity – of all creation.

There is an allusion in the Infancy Narratives to the centuries before when the prophet Isaiah announced before the king and court the pregnancy of a young girl as a message of hope for the future (in nine months time). But with the birth of Jesus being the ultimate in dramatic there is contrasted the lowliness of the shepherds, the stable and the circumstances of the birth, but also the singing of angels and wise travellers from the east, as well as the attitudes of Joseph and Elizabeth. We are ourselves, on the verge of celebrating this augur of good times to come – though we have a part to play in the coming.


9 Dec

We seem always to use plurals for aspects or elements of time and space. From day to day the weather can change and even be different between here and there or east and west. In our lives we experience the vagaries of health and illness, children vary from being adorable to being unbearable. If you have ever been engaged in a project or process of doing something, it is the same. When cooking all can go well but sometimes you realise “Oh, I haven’t got any …. for this recipe!” When you are involved with some project that takes time there will be ups and downs – there are vagaries throughout our experience.

God in himself is free from this problem, but in His projects of creation and of making people into saints there are ups and downs, ebb and flow, perhaps even success and failure. The stories of our predecessors in the Old Testament experience what they see as God’s favour and punishment – they have highs and lows, reward and punishment etc. Christians even see something of this in the life and then death of Christ followed by (and finalised in) resurrection.   And the readings and feasts in our weekly services mirrors this pattern of vagaries. Advent, which we celebrate at this time is an approach to the joy of Christmas – it is the celebration of the beginning of a great highpoint in the history of humanity – the coming of God into our world as one of us. Let us prepare ourselves as best we can for this momentous celebration in the vagaries of God’s people -His creation.


1 Dec

Metamorphosis is the title of a very famous novel by Kafka about a man who wakes to find he is an insect; it was also the title of a performance on the Edinburgh fringe last summer (2019); it is also the term for the process of change such as a grub becoming a butterfly. The word literally means ‘a change of form.’ We are all less than we could and should be – we need to change. I guess at death there will be a dramatic change of some sort, but what about here and now.

I could change for the better – only I know how.  If I stop to think about it, I could be much more saintly – more how I should be and how God wants me to be. The teaching of the gospels is for a conversion to being a follower of Jesus, but that means an ongoing change in our attitude to life – becoming more the person God wants us to be. Its not just a change of behaviour but, deeper than that, it is a change in attitude, in the way we think, plan and act.

So often in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and especially in Luke’s writings, we read or hear the word ‘repent.’ In English this is taken to mean be sorry for the faults that we have and for the wrongs we have done. But the original Greek (μετανοητε) has in it the ‘meta’ (as in metamorphosis) which means change, – and in the gospels it is linked with a word for mindset making it mean change attitude; so when we read ‘repent’ in our scriptures it means change the way you think about who you are and how you are with the world and its resources and all God’s creatures. Consequently, don’t so much regret your misdemeanours but refocus on the sort of person you want to be – into whom you plan to change – metaphose!