Friday, 30 May 2008

Still the Sacred Heart.

This is my Sacred Heart. It came from St Alban, Cheetwood when it closed.

A long week is drawing to a close, although I will be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to erect marquees and spit roast cows for a family party in the afternoon. I will luxuriate in the still time on Sunday morning when there is only me in Church and I can light the lamps and say my morning prayer in peace. Today is still the feast of the Sacred Heart, one of the more pastoral images of Our Lord in the pantheon of Christian imagery. One thing worth remembering about the Sacred Heart is the position of His hands, you see they are open and His arms are out. If only we could strive to be like He is more often. The Good Shepherd is another pastoral representation of Christ, predating the use of the Cross which only came into common use after Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge where one account says that he saw a vision of the cross and the words came down 'in this sign conquer'. In another account, of course, he saw the Roman god of war, but Christianity prevailed in the end, as it has a tendency to do. Some Muslims are calling this present age 'the Age of Humiliation' and we may well feel similar as well in the Christian faith, as the structures and values that we shaped over centuries seem to come crashing down around our ears. It is anything but, however, it is the age where 'hard liners' are winning ground and making converts - hard liners, my friends, like you and I. Hard liners who are not afraid to stand up and be counted and to make our voice heard. Hard liner does not automatically mean 'loony fringe' or wrong, or dangerous. It means that we have a space while the world breathes, deciding which direction to take next, to stand up and make a strong case for what we believe, as Orthodox Christians, should be happening next. We come to the world now at the turn of the tide and we need to make sure that we are strong and coherent.

Look at what is happening. The Church struggles, society becomes intolerant, religions war, politics and faith toe a thin line together, ready to break into hostilities at the least provocation. There is confusion as to what the Church teaches. People, in our increasingly simplistic society, where directness is, for the first time in a century, a virtue, expect us to show the way with care, with love and above all with great clarity. Christ showed us this in His own example, of love, patience, love, teaching, love, compassion and, oh, did I mention love? This clarity and direction comes from example, from approaching people in the place where they are, in the situation they are in. If we are to preserve our moral standing and our mission, we need to be visibly Christ for others. I am reminded of a Methodist Minister being installed as Head Methodist and the layman whose job it was to give him his staff of office became overwhelmed, forgot his speech and simply passed him the staff and said 'Sir, we would see Jesus'. We would see Jesus, in the joy of the May Devotions, the exuberance of pilgrimage, the greatness of Baptism, the generosity of Confirmation, the love of the Mass and the humility and love of we, His servants.

If you say that the Sacred Heart is not for us, then answer me this, if Christ is alive, which He is, and sits at the right hand of the Father, which He does, and ascended into Heaven that we may follow Him, which He did, and if He has a heart which He does, is not that Heart Sacred? Is not that love divine?

May our hearts burn within us as we hear Scripture unfold the story of Jesus and as we act out His commandment to love and may the Spirit of Joy fall upon us as we go out into the world, to create and renew.

PS. This is the 350th post on this blog. It has been alive for almost a year now. We have come a long way since I first said that I would tell you all about my walks in the country and occasional chats. Now these pages are looked at over seven thousand times a week, far more than I ever dreamed of. Of course I know that you only tune in for Fr Lee and in the vain hope that Shawn might resurface, which it seems he has done, but there you are. I am delighted to announce that we will soon be having another co-blogger, but he will announce himself when he comes. I would like more people, really, as it takes some of the heat off me! Now all I need to do is not fall out with any of my co-bloggers until I get back from Walsingham in August so you are not, dear wanderers, left bereft of news for that week. Thank you to you all for reading these pages, it humbles and raises me all at the same time.

PPS. I have just looked at who is online at the moment, and there are nine people, from Pennsylvania, California, St Helens, Virginia, Albuquerque, Manchester, Ballarat, Vatican City(!) and Raunheim in Germany. Marvellous, isn't it! Thank you all. You have made a happy man feel very old.