Monday, 2 February 2009

A Cold Day.

I love living in England, I really do. The landscape, people and literature all appeal to me greatly. We share, in Northern Europe, an ancient yearning for the coming of the dawn, a literary and actual orientation to the East which has permeated our culture and is found in the most surprising places. However a small snowfall can still bring the country grinding, shamefully to a halt in a way which amazes our more Northerly Northern European neighbours. Saint Peter's Swinton, though, beacon of the faith, was still open this morning as I drove past as should almost everything else be really. Once you get off the side roads the snow is nothing more than a minor irritation to pedestrians.

It was the stoic nature of the Englishman which we used to be known for. Calm under gunfire and all that. This stoicism and determination supported the Oxford Movement through dark days of jail and persecution and runs through the Anglo-Catholic Movement now, visible in our conferences, Churches and, more recently, blogs. Cardinal Kaspar mentioned last year that we need a New Oxford Movement and a number of attempts were made to begin one, missing the point I felt, because what seemed to happen, almost subconsciously, is that the footfall, interest in and quality of blogging from our constituency went up almost overnight and keeps on rising and keeps on spreading. Like the sunflower, we opened up once the light was intensified and spread our petals out, visibly dropping seeds which sprout.

It is sad, therefore, when part of the flower dies, as has, it appears, happened to the Massinformation blog, which has accompanied us all on the road for some time now. I hope that the joint flowering of the Anglo-Catholic blogs has dropped sufficient seed for it to grow again. As I explained to the Proprietor of that blog, I have occasionally felt like closing this blog down, for the odd messages and veiled threats I get through it, but there are always those who dislike seeing a garden grow if it does not grow according to their own standards or values. As always, if new blogs appear, we will let you know, but in the meantime, carry on enjoying this New Movement, which is accessible on the sidebar and of which we are proud to be a part.

This morning was, as you have now gathered, snowy, which is to be expected for this time of year. The snow reminded me of the canticle of the three Young men in the fiery furnace from the Book of Daniel,

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
you heavens, bless the Lord;

All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord.
all you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord;

Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
stars of heaven, bless the Lord.

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
all You winds, bless the Lord;

Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
cold and chill, bless the Lord;

Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
frost and cold, bless the Lord;

Ice and snow, bless the Lord;
nights and days, bless the Lord;

Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord.

Let the earth bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord;

You springs, bless the Lord;
seas and rivers, bless the Lord;

You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
all you birds of the air, bless the Lord;

All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

You sons of men, bless the Lord;
O Israel, bless the Lord;

Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;
servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;

Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;
holy men of humble heart, bless the Lord.

Ananias, Azarias, Misael, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

(Let us bless the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
let us praise and exalt God above all forever.)

Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever!

And this led me on to think of how we allow the creation to bless the Lord. Does it bless Him by supporting the dominion of humanity over the world as given us by God? Does it have its own life and function in, as we now know, preserving our fragile ecosystem and providing, as scripture tells us, sustenance for us. Certainly I will not tolerate any scriptural justification for vegetarianism, the most convincing ones stray far from an orthodox reading of scriptures and belong in the Church of Do What Thou Wilt, which as we all know is the motto of another group entirely.

But the earth is being polluted by us and by doing so, (as well as by cruelly rearing animals, in contrast to the traditional agricultural patterns - indeed I could happily argue that the Norman enclosure of land was the first non Christian farming system) we deny the creation of the Lord and we deny ourselves the chance to truly bless the Lord. A thing which has been twisted out of its shape by our mismanagement or more recently greed, cannot bear full witness to God in the form intended. A battery chicken cannot bless the Lord as it chokes in its own excrement and is forced to eat feeds stuffed with chemicals before being killed, stripped, emulsified, dyed and liquefied before being passed through an industrial sieve before being moulded into small balls and subsequently deep fried to feed our children. A sperm cannot bless the Lord when denied access to the egg it has a chance of reaching to continue God's creation because of its unexpected capture in a plastic bag. A foetus, a child of God bearing a soul and the chance of life in its fullness cannot bless the Lord as it is destroyed in the name of human rights. I could go on, but will let God speak through Jeremiah (chapter 5)

Will you not tremble at My presence,
Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea,
By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it?
And though its waves toss to and fro,
Yet they cannot prevail;
Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it.
But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart;
They have revolted and departed.
They do not say in their heart,

''Let us now fear the LORD our God,
Who gives rains of Autumn and Spring showers
in their season.
He brings unfailingly for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”
Your iniquities has upset nature's order,
And your sins have withheld her kindly gifts.

By denying the land the chance to bless the Lord through yielding its harvest we have perverted and changed the nature of the bounty which God created to feed all His people. It is no secret that we stand on the bodies of those less fortunate than ourselves and I for one cannot find a way out of this terrible situation. Again,

Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field,
Until there is no more room,
So that you have to live alone in the midst of the land! In my ears the LORD of hosts has sworn, “Surely, many houses shall become desolate,
Even great and fine ones, without occupants.
“For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one barrel of wine,
And ten bushel of seed will yield but one bushel of grain.” (Is 5).

Why is this? Have we found ourselves in a world so far removed from the way Christ taught us that it is impossible to extract ourselves? Is it possible that we are reliant on mechanically produced, tortured chickens to feed our nation and that we are incapable of producing our own goods to clothe and house us, without treading on the ravaged continents? Does our financial system have to rely on busting small nations who are building nuclear plants, ready to fend for themselves when the IMF finally collapses? Are we watching day by day to see....

how the LORD lays the earth waste,
devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants.
And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master,
the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller,
the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor.
The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled,
for the LORD has spoken this word.
The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers,
the exalted of the people of the earth fade away.
The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws,
violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant.
Therefore, a curse devours the earth,
and those who live in it are held guilty.
Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. (Is 24).

How has this come about? By our system of life, by our glorification of self and wealth and power and by our utter disregard for Christian values, by our lack of faith in our fellow people, no matter how they may act in ways we dislike, by our bickering and by the glorification of consumerism which destroys the world through its own vapid self regard, have we broken the covenant?

"Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."