Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Kebabs and Covenants.

The day broke early today, compared to previous cold and dreary days and revealed that the snow had all but melted, except on the dark side of the street. By this afternoon it will be almost clear again. You can see my footprints doing their usual round of tramping up and down the path picking up the kebab wrappers, pizza cartons and chip cones as well as the bits of donner meat and salad which were surplus to requirements. I had hoped that it would have been too cold for al fresco dining over the last week, but was proved wrong.

Today was the feast of Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and tomorrow evening the Mass will be the vigil of Saint Agatha, so red vestments were laid out. This chasuble comes from a red High Mass set I bought from Belgium for the Church with money raised at a couple of fund raising parties. There is to be another one soon for the new purple set which is pending being ordered. On Thursday we have a Parish meal out at the local catering college, raising some more funds for the work on the new Disabled toilets and community room renovation which will also renovate and decorate the terrible back passageway in Church. This is beginning in May, so there is some excitement. It will also be a relief to be able to show people where the toilets are without feeling embarrassed about what they will find there!

The candles were blessed on Sunday during the Candlemas ceremonies before the High Mass. Two of them you can see in the above picture, tied together and resting on to of the book of Blessings, ready for the throat blessings common to the memoria of Saint Blaise, who, it is recorded, saved a boy from choking during one of his Episcopal perambulations. He blessed the boy and the bone flew from his throat.

This kind of unconditional happening interested me in relation to the covenant between God and His people. The Bishop was, it is suggested, blithely unaware of the boy, he was doing what Bishops love to do, that is being processed around the place blessing their people who line the streets or aisle for this purpose. The small boy was incidental, he was included in a general blessing and then the bone flew out in response to the grace imparted in the blessing.

And if, further, you maintain, as we do, that the covenant of grace is in the deepest sense of the word unilateral both in its establishment and its continuation and realization, that is, that the covenant between God and His people which resulted, as a fruit of a great vine, in the boy-bone-throat narrative, is throughout strictly God's covenant, in no sense dependent upon you and me for its maintenance or its existence, then you can understand, too, that the covenant is absolutely unbreakable, and can understand also why it is unbreakable. It was in that sense general but efficacious, it was unconditional. Now this is not merely some dogmatic reasoning, but it is the plain teaching of Scripture every time it speaks of an everlasting covenant, as, for example, in the well known words of Genesis 17:7, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." Further, it is this aspect of God's covenant which is emphasized in the well known history of the revelation of that covenant to David in 11 Sam. 7 when the Lord assures David: "I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away, before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: Thy throne shall be established for ever." 11 Sam. 7:14-16. These are the sure mercies of David, mentioned by the prophet Isaiah and celebrated in Psalm 89.

The world is full, as I intimated yesterday, of people proclaiming the end times and the coming of the 'rapture', whatever that is supposed to be, because we have in some way broken the covenant between God and us. This new covenant is unconditional however and its breaking would deny the teachings of Christ and the Church regarding the Eucharist, that the sacrifice is remade, the covenant renewed by our acceptable offering. We may be in a sinful time - God knows, He has put us in it - and we may be in a time when if the covenant could be broken, our secular Government would vote it out of the House, but this is irrelevant, it cannot be broken. This, if nothing else, should sustain us as we pick up the discarded chips and beer cans from outside the Church.