Tuesday, 16 December 2008

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Last night I met up with a couple of friends in Rusholme for a curry, where you see us above. Rob, on the right, is a deacon in Derbyshire, and Peter, on the left, was a Church Army Captain in Liverpool and is now a deacon in the church he served in that context for many years. It is in a council estate, as he never tires of telling people, where he does much good work. Merry Christmas chaps. Hope to see you both again before too long.

Nora Batty is dead, as everyone knows now. She was, of course, called Kathy Staff, and she played Nora in Last of the Summer Wine, a sitcom which has been on TV since the early seventeen hundreds, taking its roots from the earlier mummers play, 'End of ye Summer Meade' and, as research shows, was even mentioned in cave drawings of three men being chased by a woman wearing an unlikely hat. Who would have thought, though, that Kathy Staff's 'real' name, before she changed it, was Minnie Higginbottom, a name better suited to Nora Batty than Nora Batty itself. Fate, clearly, played its part. It will be interesting to see how long the show can continue without almost any of the original actors, for except Peter Sallis - who is a hundred and seventy six - there are, I think, no 'original' parts of any magnitude left. Maybe like James Bond it will just roll along?

Roger has brought to my attention the debate going on at THINKING ANGLICANS which he instigated concerning the Bishop of Chichester and his insistence that his new Suffragan Bishop of Horsham will not ordain women to the priesthood, meaning that the status quo is maintained in that diocese. Commentators go on to say that this is a good/bad thing (mainly bad, given Thinking Anglicans intensely Liberal agenda) and generally point out that there are very few female clergy in Chichester, for which they blame the bishop. Not so, of course. Bishop Eric Kemp of Chichester would not allow ordained women into the diocese at all, thus John Hind, who does, inherited a position which began almost at zero. With the withdrawal of the freehold from many parishes and the longer lifespan of people, it is unsurprising that there have not been many vacancies in the diocese. Once again, this highlights the typical liberal problem, ie, we 'do value you really' but when there is real equality, that is, in senior appointments, we must put up and shut up in the vast majority of dioceses (or find ways to work constructively, as is usually the case) while they scream 'foul' if in the same situation.

The demand for liberality in everything, now and immediately, and the overthrow of the tradition rooted in the Scriptures and Councils and the slow growing up of the Church, rejecting heresy and building on truth, is a curse which has always been with us. It becomes harder to fight, it seems, but I should guess that this is the complaint of every generation. The shrill voices of the reformers, of course, fade into nothingness when projected against the backdrop of eternity. Faith silences them and the reality of their position shames them into silence. We are inheritors of the ancient promise, of the coming again of the Son of Man, of Christ-With-Us, upon the altar and in our very being. Voices of dissent may make things more complex, more of a challenge, but, as Yeats said, the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity. I will leave it to him.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming, WB Yeats.