Entering God’s Presence

It is at just this point, then, that my earlier note about the distinctive spatial imagery attaching to the two orders of sacramentality reenters our discussion—the difference between “being in” and “entering.” In the first place, the formulation “to enter God’s presence” can only bespeak human action, human intention. God occupies no particular space, or better, I suppose, God fills all space and time. It is we who live in defined times and spaces. So that to encounter God’s presence in or through these consolidated symbols means, ipso facto, coming to them wherever they are (or into them if we are talking about sacramental space or time) and at a specified time. “Coming into” God’s presence, then, is the marker of human limitations, not of God’s (ubiquitous) presence.

Gerard R. Hughes, ed. Steffan Losel Reformed Sacramentality (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2017), 23.

Worship Before Intimacy

One of the oft-heard comments about an inability to have every and any church building remain open, regardless of the ability to celebrate the Church’s liturgy in that building, is an appeal to ‘what about the community?’. It is, in my estimation at least, false and faulty thinking from the perspective of Catholic liturgical theology and ecclesiology, finding more foundation in non-Catholic thinking.

And, finally, I have found a Protestant theologian who seems to support my position!

Many mainline Protestant churches have developed a culture of intimacy for its own sake, so much so that intimacy has become “a primary liturgical value.” As Hughes points out,

Intimacy, or even community, however, is not the point and purpose of an assembly ostensibly gathered for the worship of God. By all means it may be a hoped-for byproduct of corporate worship, but when the priorities are reversed, the one becomes the other’s sublimate.

Steffan Losel, “Introduction”, in Gerard R. Hughes, ed. Steffan Losel, Reformed Sacramentality (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2017), xxvii, quoting Gerard R. Hughes, Worship as Meaning: A Liturgical Theology for Late Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 251.

Review: Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017

Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017 by Simon Reid-Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a BIG book, running to just short of 900 pages. It was the kind of book that I would never have the chance to read if I were not on sabbatical leave and have all the time in the world to read these kinds of books.

The author goes to great lengths to support his thesis in the pages of this tome, and I am glad that I am reading it in 2022 on the cusp of a federal election. In doing so, I have been both entertained and enlightened about the root causes of what I see as problematic in civil society here in Australia (and, I am guessing, around the world). There is much in Reid-Henry’s thesis that explains the way things are in the world at the moment.

This book is not an easy read, both because of its length and the subject matter being address, but it is a book worth persevering with.

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Papal Prayer Intention – May 2022

The prayer intention of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for May 2022 is:

We pray for all young people, called to live life to the fullest; may the see in Mary’s life the way to listen, the depth of discernment, the courage that faith generates, and the dedication to service.

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, Pope Francis writes:

43. In the heart of the Church, Mary shines forth. She is the supreme model for a youthful Church that seeks to follow Christ with enthusiasm and docility. While still very young, she accepted the message of the angel, yet she was not afraid to ask questions (cf. Lk 1:34). With open heart and soul, she replied, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).

44. “We are always struck by the strength of the young Mary’s ‘yes’, the strength in those words, ‘be it done’, that she spoke to the angel. This was no merely passive or resigned acceptance, or a faint ‘yes’, as if to say, ‘Well, let’s give it a try and see what happens’. Mary did not know the words, ‘Let’s see what happens’. She was determined; she knew what was at stake and she said ‘yes’ without thinking twice. Hers was the ‘yes’ of someone prepared to be committed, someone willing to take a risk, ready to stake everything she had, with no more security than the certainty of knowing that she was the bearer of a promise. So I ask each one of you: do you see yourselves as the bearers of a promise? What promise is present in my heart that I can take up? Mary’s mission would undoubtedly be difficult, but the challenges that lay ahead were no reason to say ‘no’. Things would get complicated, of course, but not in the same way as happens when cowardice paralyzes us because things are not clear or sure in advance. Mary did not take out an insurance policy! She took the risk, and for this reason she is strong, she is an ‘influencer’, the ‘influencer’ of God. Her ‘yes and her desire to serve were stronger than any doubts or difficulties’”.[18]

45. Without yielding to evasions or illusions, “she accompanied the suffering of her Son; she supported him by her gaze and protected him with her heart. She shared his suffering, yet was not overwhelmed by it. She was the woman of strength who uttered her ‘yes’, who supports and accompanies, protects and embraces. She is the great guardian of hope… From her, we learn how to say ‘yes’ to the stubborn endurance and creativity of those who, undaunted, are ever ready to start over again”.[19]

46. Mary was a young woman whose heart overflowed with joy (cf. Lk 1:47), whose eyes, reflecting the light of the Holy Spirit, looked at life with faith and treasured all things in her youthful heart (cf. Lk 2:19.51). She was energetic, ready to set out immediately once she knew that her cousin needed her. She did not think about her own plans, but went “with haste” to the hill country (Lk 1:39).

47. When her young son needed protection, Mary set out with Joseph to a distant land (cf. Mt 2:13-14). She also joined the disciples in awaiting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). In her presence, a young Church was born, as the apostles went forth to give birth to a new world (cf. Acts 2:4-11).

48. Today, Mary is the Mother who watches over us, her children, on our journey through life, often weary and in need, anxious that the light of hope not fail. For that is our desire: that the light of hope never fail. Mary our Mother looks to this pilgrim people: a youthful people whom she loves, and who seek her in the silence of their hearts amid all the noise, the chatter and the distractions of the journey. Under the gaze of our Mother, there is room only for the silence of hope. Thus Mary illumines anew our youth.

Homilies: 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C

My homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C. This was preached during my sabbatical leave at a location outside my usual preaching locations. This particular occasion was a 5pm Saturday evening Mass.

The readings proclaimed were Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19. Today’s psalm is Psalm 29: “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”

“The disciples had returned to their previous lives; they had returned to what they had been about before encountering Jesus in the same place as today’s Gospel account. When Jesus appears to them, especially to Peter, the mantle of pastoral leadership of ‘The Good Shepherd’ is passed on to those who would now be responsible for continuing Jesus’ mission in the world. As that mantle passes from Jesus to Peter, the task of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom becomes the responsibility of the disciples, and our responsibility in this time and this place.”

Review: Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformation

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor ReformationsSaints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations by Eamon Duffy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this contribution from Eamon Duffy, well known for both his mastery of his topic and his clear and accessible writing style.

This book was originally recommended to me by my own late bishop, Bishop Bill Wright, in the context of one of many conversations about English Church history. My only regret is that I didn’t get around to reading it before his death, as the conversation that would have been had would have further brought the text to life.

Needless to say, the English Reformation is one of those periods of church history that have always appealed to me, and dipping my toes back into the torrent if themes and sub-themes was a distinctly pleasurable contribution to my sabbatical experience.

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Review: The Orthodox Way

The Orthodox WayThe Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been waiting to read this book for some time, largely because I wanted to explore the spiritual life of the Orthodox world. There is something distinctly compelling about the Eastern approach to the Christian life, and the Christian life is significantly expanded when it is possible to breathe with both lungs (as Popes have said many times since the Second Vatican Council).

The writer of this time is perfectly positioned to help draw the Western reader into an exploration of ‘the other side’s, being both Orthodox and English in addition to being both erudite and an excellent communicator. The bishop’s command of language and subject matter serves the reader well.

There is much to reflect upon in this volume, and I suspect that the contribution to my current sabbatical experience will unfold in God’s own time.

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