Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Beatification of Pope John Paul II

Has Tony Blair been invited? Well, has he? He is undoubtedly the most recent highest-profile Tiber-swimmer in the world, and you’d think with all his post-prime-ministerial ‘doing God’ and Middle-East-envoying he’d have received an invitation to the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. Especially knowing how devout his wife is (on most things). And what about his successor, Gordon Brown? Surely the Vatican wouldn’t take its lead from Buckingham Palace and snub both former British prime ministers? Wasn’t it Mr Brown who actually invited Pope Benedict XVI to the UK on the first ever state visit by a pope (before Her Majesty even got a look-in)?

How on earth could the Holy See not invite Tony Blair but invite Robert Mugabe?

To be frank, all the preparations – the disinterment, the vials of blood for veneration, media communications – were all rather upstaged by yesterday’s Royal Wedding. Perhaps the House of Windsor was getting its own back after the 2005 clash, when the death of a pope caused (by cosmic coincidence) the cancellation of another royal wedding (except, of course, that Buckingham Palace made the announcement of the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton before the Vatican decided on this bank holiday weekend to beatify Pope John Paul II – the clash was entirely the fault of the Vatican's saint-making department). Relations between the Holy See and the Royal Family have not been so tense since the 16th century. Or at least since Mother Teresa died with days of Diana, Princess of Wales.

If His Grace is being honest, it is all being done with unseemly haste. Not because (unlike the most recent beatification of Cardinal Newman) the corpse of the late Pope has barely begun to rot (though that is doubtless true). And not because by choosing to re-position Pope John Paul II’s tomb in the Chapel of St Sebastian they are obliged to exhume and rudely eject the current incumbent of that location, the Blessed Innocent XI (1676-1689: so much for ‘rest in peace’). But because as impressive (chronically, politically and spiritually) as the pontificate of John Paul II was, it wasn’t as important as that of Pope Peter I or even of Pope John XXIII – both of whom might have merited a little law-bending and flexibility on the usual beatification process. It is unseemly because questions remain about far too many unresolved issues, and doubts are still circulating about certain under-explored matters. Yes, he bestrode the expansive 20th century like a colossus and helped to bring down the iron curtain to reunite East and West. He was to Roman Catholicism what Thatcher was to Conservatism: he was to the Church of Rome what Reagan was to The White House. Together, they were the triumvirate which confronted the tyranny of Communism, and with their conviction, confidence and courage they defeated it.

But what did he do about the constant drip-drip-drip of reports of paedophile priests? How could he turn a blind eye to tens of thousands of raped and tortured children? Was he involved in a cover-up? Why did he grant perpetual asylum and immunity from prosecution to Cardinal Bernard Law, who ‘was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape’. What about his long support for Austrian Cardinal Hans-Hermann Groer? Why did he not intervene against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ movement, Marcial Maciel, a notorious abuser? What of his fierce opposition to ‘liberation theology’ in South America which served to perpetuate oppression? Why, in the context of a global HIV/AIDS pandemic, did he tenaciously oppose any revision to his church’s often contradictory and severely restrictive rules on sexual ethics? Why did he resist any investigation into the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church? Bernard Fellay, of the Society of Saint Pius X recently incommunicated by Pope Benedict XVI, sees Pope John Paul II as a sort of Antichrist for instigating and participating in multi-faith prayer conferences, particularly in Assisi in 1986. He is of the opinion that this beatification is a ‘tsunami’ against faith.

The cult of John Paul the Great has gained an unstoppable momentum. For many, he inspires holiness and piety. For others, the hagiography is an impediment to a genuine appraisal of his achievements: it is more about delusions and a pathological religiosity. Those who laud the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI tend to blame his predecessor for many of their church’s present woes. Those who venerate John Paul II tend to be those who oppose Benedict’s reforms: it is the conservative traditionalists versus the liberal modernisers, just as it is in the Church of England.

But beatification is not about endorsing political policy or every attribute of character. The Roman Catholic Church is not ‘making’ John Paul II ‘blessed’: in Roman Catholic theology, they are affirming what has already occurred in heaven. So why the rush to pronounce it? By all accounts, he led a holy and virtuous if not heroic life, and he seemed to radiate the pastoral love of Christ. But why ‘Santo Subito’?

We live in an era of instant coffee, email and twitter. ‘Santo Subito’ was the immediate sentimental cry of an spontaneous outpouring of grief. If the late Diana, Princess of Wales had been Roman Catholic, there would have been the same sentimental demand for her to be set on an immediate path to sainthood, as Mother Teresa has been. There would have been no harm in delaying this process in accordance with Church tradition. The chronological 'pause’ was purposeful, to permit perspective, objectivity, reason and reflection. It took more than a century for John Henry Cardinal Newman to make it. It is ironic that Benedict XVI, the most intellectual and reasonable of popes to occupy the Throne of St Peter in centuries, should succumb to this sort of dianafication.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cartwheels of joy in Westminster Abbey



And speaking of the spirit of Diana, Princess of Wales, this is precisely the sort of exuberance and informality she would have loved:
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing (Ps 30:11)

And David danced before the LORD with all his might (2Sam 6:14)
This anonymous verger is probably about to become a global superstar. It is so wonderfully Anglican. After the restraint of reverence, discretion, sobriety and reflection on the the fear of God, we witness the affirmation of unbridled joy. But this man is not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only three in the afternoon (cf Acts 2:15).

Diana's Prayer for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge


Amidst the formality of His Grace's liturgy, the magnificent hymns, the exquisite anthems and majestic grandeur of the setting and the occasion, one might be forgiven for not detecting the presence of the spirit of Diana, Princess of Wales in the proceedings. But she was there: indeed, if you listened closely, you could hear her words.

Prince William and Catherine Middleton surreptitiously injected a little informality into the proceedings, even a glimpse of humour. So brief was it, and so disguised by the stateliness and dignity of the Bishop of London, that one might easily have mistaken it for yet another modernisation of the Book of Common Prayer. But at the end of his Address to the couple, Dr Richard Chartres read out a sensitive, honest and quite intimate prayer which had been written by William and Catherine themselves. They might well have been chanelling Diana:
God our Father, we thank you for our families, for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busy-ness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is almost the fulfilment of the wish of Charles Spencer, Diana's brother, expressed in his oration at her funeral in the same place 14 years ago:
And beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned.

We fully respect the heritage into which they have both been born and will always respect and encourage them in their royal role but we, like you, recognise the need for them to experience as many different aspects of life as possible to arm them spiritually and emotionally for the years ahead. I know you would have expected nothing less from us.
In the vulnerable informality of this simple prayer, with its focus on compassion for those who suffer, you can hear the open singing, the joy, the laughter, and the spiritual and emotional honesty of Diana. And what a cheeky glance was there.

Royal Wedding: the Address of the Bishop of London


"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."

So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day this is. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many people are fearful for the future of today’s world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.

William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each other.

The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. People can dream of such a thing but that hope should not be fulfilled without a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

You have both made your decision today – “I will” – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely the power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform so long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:
"Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon."
As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today will do everything in their power to support and uphold you in your new life. I pray that God will bless you in the way of life you have chosen. That way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:
God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.
In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.
Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer.
We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

This Royal Wedding is an act of faith in a world of doubt


Today we celebrate the joyous occasion of the marriage of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales K.G. with Miss Catherine Middleton. His Grace wishes them many long and happy years together.

The occasion brings to mind that on 28th May 1533, His Grace declared the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to be good and valid. As a consequence, both His Majesty and His Grace were abruptly excommunicated by the Pope. The Church of England then split from Rome more for political than theological reasons, and through centuries of controversy, social upheaval and cultural change, we are where we are today: another royal wedding in Westminster Abbey in accordance with the distinctly Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the asymmetrical fusion of Scripture with reason and tradition. Two billion people – a third of the planet – will today witness and experience something of the Reformed Catholic faith which asserts that Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: the Bible is open, the priesthood is pastoral and worship is common.

God willing, this royal couple will one day be King William V and Queen Catherine of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. At that same moment, King William will also become the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, just as every monarch has been since Henry VIII. He will be the guardian of the Church’s authoritative formularies, its polity and its confessional identity of affirmation and restraint.

In the postmodern relativist and secular context in which marriage appears increasingly to mean whatever one wants it to mean, today we celebrate what Christians have done for 2000 years and man has done for millennia: the union of a man and a woman. Not just any man, of course: Prince William’s royal lineage can be traced all the way back to King Alfred the Great. When he kneels at the 1000-year-old altar of Westminster Abbey, he does so as the representative of a British institution as ancient as the Church itself, under whose aegis he is joined in holy matrimony. This is not a fairytale: Prince William and Catherine Middleton do not enter the institution of marriage unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly; but reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God.

Marriage is not an exclusively Judaeo-Christian institution; it is a union observed in all cultures, and seems, according to Aristotle, to exist by nature. Marriage in the Bible is essential for the functioning of society, and is the model used to explain the mystery of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph 5:25-32). The Church of England ‘affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman’. This has its basis in the Old Testament, where God says: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him’ (Gen 2:18). It continues: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (v24). Although these verses do not purport to define marriage, they do describe its origin, and are therefore crucial for understanding the Bible’s teaching on marriage.

There are three principal purposes for marriage arising out of this: the procreation of children, companionship, and sexual union. Marriage is a covenant before God which Jesus confirms with the phrase ‘God hath joined together’ (Mt 19:6). When that marriage is royal, the joining is all the more important because in its symbolism it embodies something of the hopes of the nation. We do not care much for our drab politicians and we care even less for our pompous prelates. But our Monarch is loved, admired and respected the world over: the institution is worthy of our support and loyalty. One perceives in Prince William an understanding of and commitment to his duty, but it is increasingly apparent that he also possesses something of the common, modernising and even rebellious touch of his mother: he is immanent and tangible, if a little unknowable.

There will be some misanthropic negativity today, expressed even in the chat thread below. People will moan about the excess and cost; some will mutter about it being time for a republic; some will remind us of spurned former Labour prime ministers; others will scoff at the circumstance and hasten to remind us of Prince Charles’ infidelity and the fact that a third of all marriages end in divorce. Such is Britain.

But His Grace exhorts his readers and communicants to revel in the pomp and majesty and celebrate joyously all day long, because this ceremony represents stability and continuity in an age of insecurity and uncertainty: it is an act of faith in a world of doubt; it is hope in despair.

God bless Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales.

O merciful Lord and heavenly Father, by whose gracious gift mankind is increased; bestow, we beseech thee, upon these two persons the heritage and gift of children; and grant that they may see their children christianly and virtuously brought up, to thy praise and honour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Royal Wedding - Order of Service


His Grace is delighted to reproduce the Order of Service for the Royal Wedding. It all looks quite splendid. His only regret is that the Scripture reading is from the Anglicised edition of New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. You'd have thought, with this year being the quatercentenary of the Authorised Version... O, never mind. Enjoy:

The Marriage of His Royal Highness
Prince William of Wales, K.G.
with
Miss Catherine Middleton
29th April, 2011
11.00am
The service is conducted by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster.

The marriage is solemnized by The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England and Metropolitan.

The service is sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Choir of Her Majesty's Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, conducted by James O'Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers, Westminster Abbey.

The organ is played by Robert Quinney, Sub-Organist, Westminster Abbey.

The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry are conducted by Trumpet Major Grant Sewell-Jones, Band of The Blues and Royals.

The Fanfare Team from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force is directed by Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs, Principal Director of Music, Royal Air Force. The fanfare Valiant and Brave, after the motto of No 22 Squadron (Search and Rescue Force), Royal Air Force, was specially composed for this service by Wing Commander Stubbs.

Music before the service:

James McVinnie, Assistant Organist, Westminster Abbey, plays:

Fantasia in G (Piece d'orgue a 5) BWV 572 - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Veni Creator Spiritus - Peter Maxwell Davies (b 1934)

Prelude on St Columba Op 101 no 6 - Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

from Sonata for Organ Op 28, i. Allegro maestoso, ii. Allegretto - Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

The London Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Warren-Green, plays:

Serenade for Strings in E minor Op 20, i. Allegro piacevole, ii. Larghetto, iii. Allegretto - Edward Elgar

Courtly Dance V: Galliard, from Gloriana (Symphonic Suite) Op 53a no 7 - Benjamin Britten (1913-76)

Fantasia on Greensleeves - Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Farewell to Stromness - Peter Maxwell Davies

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring - Frederick Delius (1862-1934)

Touch Her Soft Lips and Part, from Henry V Suite - William Walton (1902-83)

Romance for String Orchestra Op 11 - Gerald Finzi (1901-56)

The Assistant Organist plays:

Canzona, from Organ Sonata in C minor - Percy Whitlock (1903-46)

At 10.15am the Bridegroom and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales are received at the Great West Door by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster and escorted to the Lantern. All remain seated.

From 10.20am Members of Foreign Royal Families are received at the Great West Door by the Dean and Chapter and conducted to their seats in the Lantern. All remain seated.

Mrs Michael Middleton and Mr James Middleton arrive at the Great West Door and are conducted to their seats in the Lantern. All remain seated.

From 10.30am Members of the Royal Family are received at the Great West Door by the Dean and Chapter and conducted to their seats in the Lantern. All remain seated.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Choir of Her Majesty's Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, proceed to their places in Quire.

At 10.42am Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall are received at the Great West Door by the Dean and Chapter. All stand.

At 10.45am a fanfare is sounded. All remain standing.

Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh are received at the Great West Door by the Dean and Chapter. All remain standing until The Queen's Procession has reached the Lantern, and then sit.

The London Chamber Orchestra plays:

March, from The Birds - Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918)

THE PROCESSION OF THE QUEEN

The Dean's Verger

The Dean of Westminster

Her Royal Highness, The Duchess Of Cornwall, His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales

His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, HER MAJESTY, THE QUEEN


The Sub-Organist plays:

Prelude on Rhosymedre - Ralph Vaughan Williams


At 10.55am the Procession of the Clergy moves to places in the Sacrarium. All remain seated.

THE PROCESSION OF THE CLERGY

A Verger

The Lord Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal

The Primatial Cross of Canterbury

The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England and Metropolitan

A Verger

The Cross of Westminster and Taperers

The Chaplains

The Minor Canons of Westminster

The Canons' Verger

The Canons of Westminster


All stand. The Bride, accompanied by her father, is received at the Great West Door by the Dean.


THE PROCESSION OF THE BRIDE

during which THE INTROIT is sung
I WAS glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand in thy gates: O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is builded as a city: that is at unity in itself.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces.

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry - Psalm 122: 1-3, 6-7
The Dean's Verger

The Dean of Westminster

Mr Michael Middleton, THE BRIDE

Miss Eliza Lopes, Miss Philippa Middleton, Miss Grace van Cutsem

The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, The Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones

Master Tom Pettifer, Master William Lowther-Pinkerton


All remain standing to sing
THE HYMN

GUIDE me, O thou great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fiery cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through:
strong Deliverer,
be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's Destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side:
songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.

Cwm Rhondda
John Hughes (1873-1932)
arranged by James O'Donnell (b 1961)
William Williams (1717-91)
translated by Peter Williams (1727-96) and others
All remain standing. The Dean gives

THE WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God himself, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee, and is commended in Holy Writ to be honourable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly; but reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for which matrimony was ordained.

First, it was ordained for the increase of mankind according to the will of God, and that children might be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy name.

Secondly, it was ordained in order that the natural instincts and affections, implanted by God, should be hallowed and directed aright; that those who are called of God to this holy estate, should continue therein in pureness of living.

Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined.

Therefore if any man can shew any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.


The Archbishop of Canterbury says to Prince William and Catherine:

I REQUIRE and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their matrimony lawful.


THE MARRIAGE

The Archbishop says to Prince William:

WILLIAM Arthur Philip Louis, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together according to God's law in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

He answers:

I will.

The Archbishop says to Catherine:

CATHERINE Elizabeth, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together according to God's law in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

She answers:

I will.

The Archbishop continues:

Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?

The Archbishop receives Catherine from her father's hand. Taking Catherine's right hand, Prince William says after the Archbishop:

I, WILLIAM Arthur Philip Louis, take thee, Catherine Elizabeth to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law; and thereto I give thee my troth.

They loose hands. Catherine, taking Prince William by his right hand, says after the Archbishop:

I, CATHERINE Elizabeth, take thee, William Arthur Philip Louis, to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law; and thereto I give thee my troth.

They loose hands. The Archbishop blesses the ring:

BLESS, O Lord, this ring, and grant that he who gives it and she who shall wear it may remain faithful to each other, and abide in thy peace and favour, and live together in love until their lives' end. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prince William takes the ring and places it upon the fourth finger of Catherine's left hand. Prince William says after the Archbishop:

WITH this ring I thee wed; with my body I thee honour; and all my worldly goods with thee I share: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Congregation remains standing as the Couple kneels. The Archbishop says:

Let us pray.

O ETERNAL God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, giver of all spiritual grace, the author of everlasting life: send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy name; that, living faithfully together, they may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, whereof this ring given and received is a token and pledge; and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Archbishop joins their right hands together and says:

Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

The Archbishop addresses the Congregation:

FORASMUCH as William and Catherine have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be man and wife together, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Archbishop blesses the Couple:

GOD the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.

All sing

THE HYMN
LOVE divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.

Jesu, thou art all compassion,
pure unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
never more thy temples leave.

Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation,
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation,
perfectly restored in thee,
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise!

Blaenwern
William Penfro Rowlands (1860-1937)
arranged by James O'Donnell
Charles Wesley (1707-88)
All sit. Mr James Middleton reads

THE LESSON

I APPEAL to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18

All remain seated. The Choirs sing

THE ANTHEM
THIS is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.
O praise the Lord of heaven: praise him in the height.
Praise him, all ye angels of his: praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light.
Let them praise the name of the Lord.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.
The Lord himself is thy keeper: the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand;
so that the sun shall not burn thee by day: neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: yea, it is even he that shall keep thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in: from this time forth for evermore.
He shall defend thee under his wings.
Be strong, and he shall comfort thine heart, and put thou thy trust in the Lord.

John Rutter (b 1945)
commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster for this service
Psalms 118: 24; 148: 1-3, 5a; 91: 4a, 11; 121: 5-8; 27: 16b

THE ADDRESS

by

The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Richard Chartres KCVO, Lord Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal

All remain seated. The Couple moves to the High Altar as the Choirs sing

THE MOTET
UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. Exsultemus et in ipso jucundemur. Timeamus et amemus Deum vivum. Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero. Amen.

Wherever charity and love are to be found, God is there. The love of Christ has brought us together as one. Let us rejoice and be glad in him. Let us fear and love the living God; and let us love one another with sincerity in our heart. Amen.
Paul Mealor (b 1975)
after 1 John 4


The Reverend Michael Macey, Minor Canon and Precentor, says

THE PRAYERS

Let us pray.

All kneel or remain seated.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

OUR Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

O Lord, save thy servant and thy handmaid;
who put their trust in thee.
O Lord, send them help from thy holy place;
and evermore defend them.

Be unto them a tower of strength;
from the face of their enemy.
O Lord, hear our prayer;
and let our cry come unto thee.
The Dean and the Archbishop say:

O GOD of our fathers, bless these thy servants, and sow the seed of eternal life in their hearts; that whatsoever in thy holy word they shall profitably learn, they may in deed fulfil the same; that so, obeying thy will, and alway being in safety under thy protection, they may abide in thy love unto their lives' end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O MERCIFUL Lord and heavenly Father, by whose gracious gift mankind is increased; bestow, we beseech thee, upon these two persons the heritage and gift of children; and grant that they may see their children christianly and virtuously brought up, to thy praise and honour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O GOD, who hast taught us that it should never be lawful to put asunder those whom thou by matrimony hadst made one, and hast consecrated the state of matrimony to such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church: look mercifully upon these thy servants, that both this man may love his wife, according to thy word (as Christ did love his spouse the Church, who gave himself for it, loving and cherishing it even as his own flesh), and also that this woman may be loving and amiable, and faithful to her husband, and in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, be a follower of holy and godly matrons. O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, pour upon you the riches of his grace, sanctify and bless you, that ye may please him both in body and soul, and live together in holy love unto your lives' end. Amen.

All stand to sing

THE HYMN
AND did those feet in ancient time
walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
on England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
till we have built Jerusalem
in England's green and pleasant land.

Jerusalem
Charles Hubert Hastings Parry
arranged by Edward Elgar William Blake (1757-1827)
All remain standing. The Dean pronounces

THE BLESSING

Let us pray.

O ALMIGHTY Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

THE blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always.

The Choirs sing:
Amen.
A fanfare is sounded. All remain standing to sing

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
GOD save our gracious Queen.
Long live our noble Queen.
God save The Queen.
Send her victorious,
happy and glorious,
long to reign over us:
God save The Queen.

arranged by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984)
All sit.

The Choirs sing

BLEST PAIR OF SIRENS

during which the Bride and Bridegroom and their witnesses move to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor for the signing of the Marriage Registers.

The Procession of the Clergy moves to the Great West Door.
BLEST pair of Sirens, pledges of heaven's joy,
sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,
wed your divine sounds, and mixed power employ
dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce;
and to our high-raised phantasy present
that undisturbed song of pure concent,
aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne
to him that sits thereon,
with saintly shout, and solemn jubilee,
where the bright Seraphim in burning row
their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow,
and the cherubic host in thousand quires
touch their immortal harps of golden wires,
with those just spirits that wear victorious palms,
hymns devout and holy psalms
singing everlastingly:

That we on earth with undiscording voice
may rightly answer that melodious noise;
as once we did, till disproportioned sin
jarred against nature's chime, and with harsh din
broke the fair music that all creatures made
to their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed
in perfect diapason, whilst they stood
in first obedience, and their state of good.

O may we soon again renew that song,
and keep in tune with heaven, till God ere long
to his celestial concert us unite,
to live with him, and sing in endless morn of light.

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry John Milton (1608-74)
At a Solemn Musick
As the fanfare Valiant and Brave is sounded, all stand for

THE PROCESSION OF THE BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM

during which the London Chamber Orchestra plays:

Crown Imperial
William Walton

THE BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM

The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, The Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones

Master Tom Pettifer, Master William Lowther-Pinkerton

Miss Philippa Middleton, His Royal Highness, Prince Henry of Wales

Mrs Michael Middleton, His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales

Mr Michael Middleton, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall

All remain standing for

THE PROCESSION OF THE QUEEN

The Dean's Verger

The Dean

His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, HER MAJESTY, THE QUEEN


The Sub-Organist plays:

Toccata, from Symphonie V
Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)

'Pomp and Circumstance' March no 5
Edward Elgar
arranged by Iain Farrington (b 1977)

The bells of the Abbey Church are rung by the Westminster Abbey Company of Ringers in a peal of Spliced Surprise Royal comprising 5,040 changes, conducted by David Hilling.

Members of the Congregation are requested to remain in their places until invited by the Ushers and the Honorary Stewards to leave the Abbey.

©The Registrars of the Convocations of Canterbury and York, 1965, 1966. The copyright of the Alternative Services: Series One, material from which is included in this service, is assigned with effect from 1 July 1978 to the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England, and with effect from 1 January 2005 to The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. The scripture reading is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Anglicized Edition copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Royal Wedding upholds and reinforces the constitutional position of Monarchy and the inner being of the Church of England


You are permitted to be bored and indifferent while wishing Prince William and Catherine Middleton no ill will. You are permitted merely to be grateful for the bonus bank holiday and an extra lie-in. You are permitted even to feel irritated that this wedding is dominating the national media, packing London with foreign tourists and distracting the world’s attention from weightier matters.

But the majority will delight in this joyous occasion of marriage: not because of the individuals involved – though there is undoubted effusive affection for both, not least because of the global popularity of Princess Diana – but because of what the occasion represents. It is usual for a royal marriage to be a religious or a political affair: it is rarer for it to be a love match, and even rarer for it to represent the coincidence of all three. Tomorrow we will see the splendour of Christian England – there will be no multi-faith nonsense and no politically-correct prayers to ‘Our Parent, who art in heaven’. We even get Parry’s great hymn Jerusalem, which is absurdly banned by many Anglican clergy from wedding services.

The religious significance of this marriage must not be underestimated. Its importance depends upon ceremony, upon belief and upon moral example. It is strange to think that, God willing, in about 20 years this couple will be King William V and Queen Catherine: their marriage simultaneously upholds and reinforces the constitutional position of Monarchy and the inner being of the Church of England. In the agnostic and secular milieu of the political establishment, the Established Church is fortified by the ritual of state occasion and the personalities of the Monarchy – in particular of the present Queen. Their own Christian beliefs are imperfectly authentic, and the recurrent royal rituals - when Church and Monarchy are seen as united together - are still central to the life of the nation. Religious and Royal ritual, when well conducted – and no institution on the planet does it as well as Anglicans at their sober and traditional best – is readily consumed by television. This may be an X-Factor wedding, but the religious strength of the Monarchy beneath the pageantry derives from the great consistency which two thousand years of generations have shown in their unassuming commitment to Christian worship, the practice of Christian marriage, and a very high sense of public duty.

Tomorrow, the Church of England, the Monarchy and the pluralised nation will be bound together by an act of union. It represents moral and religious coherence at the level of the nation’s public persona, which remains Christian and Anglican. For as long as the Monarchy presents that image with sincerity, it will be a bulwark against the political assault upon it. Enoch Powell once observed:
It is possible to have an internally self-governed church in this country, but it will not be the national church, it will not be the Church of England. The Church is the Church of England because of Royal Supremacy, because there is Royal – that is to say, lay – supremacy. It is for that reason that it is the Church of the people and the Church of the nation, and can never be converted into a mere sect or private, self-managing corporation.
The Church may have since become largely self-governing, but it remains in some residual sense the Church of the people, and those people clearly wish to retain and express a religious and distinctly Christian quality. William and Catherine are symbolic of spiritual and theological continuity. We should wish them well, and pray for them. They'll need it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury on the Royal Wedding

Why we should care about Catholic Care

It is strange how one’s enemies shift and change: one day it’s the French, then the Welsh, then the Scots, and then the Roman Catholics. The next day it’s the Irish, then the Germans, then the Russians, followed swiftly by Darth Vader. And finally it’s – well, it’s not very clear: sundry mad mullahs of middle-eastern extraction who want to blow us all to kingdom come, or the European Union. The object of hate changes with the nation’s geo-political strategy, when there is one.

But no-one is looking amongst us; our eyes are diverted from the enemy within.

His Grace has been pondering the judgement in the case of Catholic Care – a charity which sought exemption from equality laws which prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples wanting to adopt. The charity simply wished to follow their conscience and continue to place adoptive children with heterosexual parents, in accordance with their understanding of Christian orthodoxy and the desire to adhere to Church tradition, not to mention the research which clearly establishes that children flourish best in a family with both a mother and father in a committed relationship.

After two years of tenacious arguing (which His Grace has supported, exhorted, and encouraged), they have had their final appeal rejected: they now either agree to place children with homosexual couples or they close. The Tribunal determined that ‘Religious belief is... protected by ECHR and by the Equality Act 2010 in certain private circumstances’. But adoption is a public service, funded in part by local authorities, so does not have the same exemptions under the Equality Act 2010 as those which cover private religious worship, as the charity had pleaded.

Catholic Care argued that if it were to close, children would be left unadopted. The tribunal acknowledged there would be ‘a loss to society if the charity's skilled staff were no longer engaged in the task of preparing potential adopters to offer families to children awaiting an adoption placement’. But the panel said it had to balance the risk of closure of the charity's adoption service - which it said was ‘by no means certain’ - against the ‘detriment to same-sex couples and the detriment to society generally of permitting the discrimination proposed’.

The charity argued that its stance attracted potential adopters who did not approach other agencies. It told the tribunal that same-sex couples could get adoption services from local authorities and other voluntary agencies and said failure to secure the exemption would hit the voluntary donations which keep it afloat.

Responding to the ruling, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds Arthur Roche said: "Catholic Care is very disappointed with this ruling. The trustees are considering their position and whether or not to appeal. It is unfortunate that those who will suffer as a consequence of this ruling will be the most vulnerable children for whom Catholic Care has provided an excellent service for many years.

"It is an important point of principle that the charity should be able to prepare potential adoptive parents, a service recognised for its excellence by the local authorities who are responsible for placing children, according to the tenets of the Catholic faith."

The full judgement may be found HERE. Of interest is the utterly reasonable response of the charity to any homosexual couples who sought to use their services: they didn’t tell them they suffered from an ‘objective disorder’, were guilty of mortal sin and would go to hell: they helpfully pointed them to ‘other voluntary adoption agencies and local authorities’. The Charity argued that unless it were permitted to continue to discriminate as proposed, it would no longer be able to raise the voluntary income from its supporters.

The Commission asked the Tribunal to dismiss the appeal and relied upon case law on this issue – specifically Islington London Borough Council v Ladele and Eunice and Owen Johns v Derby City Council.

The Tribunal heard oral evidence from the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, the ex-officio Chairman of the Charity. He is responsible for ensuring that its activities are within the tenets of the Church: “in effect I am the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity”.
The Bishop told the Tribunal that the Church’s teaching is that a full sexual union without marriage is unacceptable, so that adoption services could not be offered by the Charity to unmarried heterosexual couples or to same sex couples. He did not think it generally acceptable for a single person to adopt, although he was aware that the Charity had in the past placed a child for adoption with a single adopter. He said he could not explain why the Charity’s website apparently suggested that single adopters were able to use the Charity’s services and said that whilst he was involved in setting the Charity’s policies, he did not necessarily know what went onto its website.
Helpful, huh?

There’s more:
The Charity’s proposed objects (as currently drafted) did not seek to discriminate against same sex foster carers. The Commission had been informed by the Charity during the internal review process that the Charity did not object to placing children with same sex foster carers because this did not involve the creation of a family. When asked about this, the Bishop disagreed with this statement of the Charity’s policies and said he did not know why the proposed objects had been drafted in that way. He did not think the Charity had ever placed a child for fostering with a same sex couple and did not think it should. He thought that if a same sex couple who were already fostering a child applied to the Charity for assistance to adopt it, they would be referred to another voluntary adoption agency.
So, ‘the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity’ disagrees with the Charity’s policies.
He did not think that the Charity could re-structure so as to be able to continue its adoption work because he said the necessary financial backing from its supporters would not be available. He said that “the people who provide us with funds have clear views on these matters”. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he did not know how many Catholics supported same sex adoptions, he just knew that the stance the Charity had adopted in this matter had attracted much support. When asked if a change of stance might not in fact attract new supporters who did not oppose same sex adoptions, he responded that this was untested water.
It’s good when your key witness is so well prepared.

When asked to describe how the ability to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation would assist the Charity in its work, he explained that charities want their income to be applied to their own vision of what is in the best interests of the child. He thought that voluntary income had dropped off in areas such as Birmingham and Cardiff when there had been de-mergers of voluntary adoption agencies from the Church. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he agreed with the principle that a child should have the widest possible pool of potential adopters. He said he had heard that same sex couples rarely adopt hard to place children, although when directed to the evidence before the Tribunal which contradicted that view...he was prepared to accept that he might be mistaken on that point.

The Tribunal had before it a letter which had been sent unsolicited to the Charity Commission by the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and which stated that other Catholic adoption agencies which had been required to change their way of operating in order to comply with equality legislation had continued to attract support from ‘Catholics (including Bishops), showing that intransigent opposition to adoption by same sex couples is not an essential element to a Catholic ethos”.

And so the Tribunal concluded that basically because Bishop Arthur Roche was all at sea and the Gay Catholic Movement said some Catholics do offer financial support to adoption agencies which provide services to same sex adopters, Catholic Care has no case. They also (of course) took into account ‘the European authorities as to the dis-benefit to society arising from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation’.

But here’s the crucial section of the judgement:
...religious conviction in the sphere of personal belief is protected in both domestic and European equality law, so that acts of devotion, worship, and prayer (including ceremonies) are exempt from equality obligations. However, with the greatest of respect to the Bishop, his argument overlooked the essential distinction between private acts of worship such as blessings and the provision of a public service such as an adoption agency. In other words, in advancing this argument, the Bishop did not take account of the law by which the Tribunal is bound.
This is not a question of ‘homophobia’ (though the allegations will come as swiftly as those of 'bigotry'), and neither is it some irrational prejudice: most Christians will reasonably agree that there may be instances where placing children with a single parent or a gay couple is preferable to a loveless life in a local authority children’s home. This is about the Christian conscience and the freedom to act in accordance with it. This judgement makes clear that there is now no question that Christians may no longer manifest their beliefs in the public sphere on this issue of sexual ethics: they may no longer worship God in spirit and in truth in their daily lives; they may no longer make their bodies a living sacrifice or act in accordance with their consciences, biblical teaching or Church history. Cardinal Keith O’Brien was quite right.

We are told to render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar: the traditional view of marriage, family and sexual ethics do not; they belong to God. The time may be at hand for the law of the State to be confronted by the Law of the Church. Let them bring you to Court: He promises to give you the words (+Arthur couldn’t have been listening):
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you
(Mt 10:16-20).
It is not the EU which is responsible for this; it is our politicians. They are doing the job of the Germans, Russians, mad mullahs and Darth Vader combined.

Either the Conservative Government repeals the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010 (not to mention the European Communities Act 1972), or we will forever be subject to and bound by precepts which violate natural law, deny our liberties and offend against our customs and traditions.

If you don’t care about Catholic care, you have already surrendered freedom of religion.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

As the Government contemplates a multi-faith House of Lords, they retreat on the Act of Settlement

While His Grace foresaw that 2011 would be a year of constitutional reform, he also knew it would be devilishly difficult, if not impossible. House of Lords reform and the Church-State relationship are not minor matters: they are not within the gift of David Cameron to lay at the feet of Nick Clegg for the trivial pursuit of reinforcing his reputation or bolstering the Coalition. It is not for the Prime Minister to offer the Act of Settlement to his Deputy in some murky quid-pro-quo for the loss of the AV referendum.

We read that the Prime Minister is considering a multi-faith House of Lords. Of course, it is Nick Clegg who is responsible for constitutional reform, but His Grace is quite certain that neither of these men actual grasps the issues or understands the complexities. The Lib Dem leader appears to believe that overseeing historic changes to the Lords will compensate for the disappointment his party will feel if his proposal to change the electoral system is rejected in the referendum on May 5. And it would be neat, coming precisely 100 years since the Parliament Act by which the Liberal Government ended the power of the House of Lords to block the annual budget. The timing and symbolism are not lost on either the Prime Minister or Mr Clegg.

But both are lost on the theo-political significance of reform.

Currently 26 Anglican bishops have seats in the Lords. The proposal is that these should be reduced and space made for other Christian denominations, in particular for Roman Catholic bishops. These would be joined by religious representatives of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

While some may observe that the House of Lords already has its self-appointed khalifa of all things Islamic, there is the thorny issue of denominational diversity within these minority faiths. Would the voice of Islam in the Lords be Sunni, Shi’a or Sufi? Should there be one of each? And what of the Ahmadiyyans? Who defines them as a sect? Where is the central Islamic authority to determine orthodoxy? Should the Sikh representative be a ‘proper’ Sikh – that is a turban-wearing, kirpan-carrying follower of the panth? Or one who takes a more relaxed view of the 5 Ks? Hinduism also has no central doctrinal authority: should their representatives in the House of Lords be adherents of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism or Smartism? Or all four? And for the Jews? The Chief Rabbi? But he does not speak on behalf all Jews. The successors to the Pharisses, Sadduccees, and Essenes are Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Hasidism, and Kabbalah. Should Christian denominations be restricted to Trinitarians? What of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

You see the problem. What the Prime Minister and his Deputy perceive to be a magnanimous act of spiritual modernity is fraught with infinite complexity: for this to be ‘fair’, the House of Lords Appointments Commission would need to be constituted of representatives from every faith also, in order that it is not seen to be a ‘hideously white’ group of Christians imposing their patronising and superficial interpretations of religious orthodoxy upon minorities. And that is not a trivial issue: the incorporation of other faiths into the House of Lords is predicated upon the State’s recognition and definition of the religious orthodoxy of each religion: essentially, they would all need to become 'established' to some extent. For if religious representaives were to be democratically elected, Lord Ahmed could easily be replaced by the likes of Abu Hamza, and then we would be praying for the restoration of the 26 Anglican bishops.

The Lords Spiritual are Anglican for a reason: they (and they alone) represent to government the via media of the nation and sustain the canopy of constitutional Christianity. There may indeed be strong arguments that our legislature might also benefit from the wisdom of leaders of Baptist, Roman Catholic, Methodist and black-led congregations. Religious adherence is actually a far better measure of diversity than skin colour, with which politicians on all sides appear to be obsessed.

But, as His Grace has previously observed, there is no logical end to the eradication of ‘discrimination’ in Parliament. Yet it is a superficial obsession, for it is no more difficult for an Anglican bishop to represent Muslims or Hindus than it is for an able-bodied MP to represent the disabled. One does not need to be homosexual to advocate equality and justice; and one does not need to be an alcoholic single-mother on welfare to speak against poverty and the causes of family breakdown.

There are, of course, already Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu peers in the House of Lords. The Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is a life peer, as is the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Baroness Warsi, a Muslim. But only a religious leader is appointed to advocate specifically on behalf their religion: there is no sense in which Baroness Warsi is the religio-political equivalent of the Chief Rabbi.

If one were to constitute the House of Commons in proportion to the religious make-up of the nation (excluding the agnostics, atheists and undeclared) it ought to contain 17 Muslims, 6 Hindus, 4 Sikhs, 3 Jews, 2 Buddhists, 465 Christians and 6 Jedi Knights (2001 census figures). With a House of Lords now significantly larger than the Commons, His Grace will leave his readers and communicants to do the math for proportionate religious representation (or wait for the 2011 census figures).

Whoever (if anyone) is advising David Cameron and Nick Clegg on these matters is simply not up to the job. Removal of any Anglican bishops would necessitate the repeal of the 1533 and 1534 Acts governing their appointment, the abolition of the homage oath, some alteration to the Coronation Oath Act and the repeal of the relevant parts of the various bishopric Acts limiting appointment maxima. Is there time for primary legislation to achieve all this? Further, they have omitted to observe that Roman Catholic ‘Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power’ (Canon 285:3). Yet, as one senior Conservative said: "It is inconceivable that we continue with a faith element to the Lords without Catholic bishops being represented.”

And neither have the politicians reckoned on the wholesale rejection by the Church of England of plans to reform the Act of Settlement 1701.

Contrary to popular belief, the Monarch is not free to be any religion or marry into any religion except the Roman Catholic one. For the Act of Settlement requires the Monarch and his or her consort to be ‘in communion with’ the Church of England. While His Grace could write more than a few pages on the meaning of ‘koinonia’ in this context, it must be noted that it is not only Roman Catholics who are prohibited by their own Magisterium from taking bread and wine in Anglican churches: Jews and Muslims would also find this unacceptable, and so adherents to many other faiths bar themselves from being ‘in communion with’ the state Church.

The Act of Settlement was forged during an era of intolerable foreign interference in the governance of England. Like Magna Carta, it is a foundational treaty between the Monarch and his/her subjects which defines our liberties and asserts our sovereign independence from all foreign princes and potentates. Its provisions are ‘for ever’: our forebears made sure it was watertight. If, indeed, Parliament once again permits the Monarch to be or marry a Roman Catholic, what will they do with the clause which states: 'in all and every such case and cases the people of these realms shall be and are thereby absolved of their allegiance'.

According to The Telegraph, the Church of England has flexed its puny muscles and found a few teeth. We read: ‘...the plan to abolish the Act of Settlement was quietly shelved after the Church raised significant objections centring on the British sovereign’s dual role as Supreme Governor.

‘Church leaders expressed concern that if a future heir to the throne married a Roman Catholic, their children would be required by canon law to be brought up in that faith. This would result in the constitutionally problematic situation whereby the Supreme Governor of the Church of England was a Roman Catholic, and so ultimately answerable to a separate sovereign leader, the Pope, and the Vatican.

‘...Mr Clegg was initially attracted to the idea of repealing the Act but is said to have been persuaded that the difficulties raised by the Anglican Church were insurmountable.

‘...A spokesman for the Anglican Church said that although the Act of Succession appeared “anomalous” in the modern world, while the Church of England remained the established religion, the monarch and Supreme Governor could not owe a higher loyalty elsewhere.

'He went on: “The prohibition on those in the line of succession marrying Roman Catholics derives from an earlier age and inevitably looks anomalous, not least when there is no prohibition on marriage to those of other faiths or none. But if the prohibition were removed the difficulty would still remain that establishment requires the monarch to join in communion with the Church of England as its Supreme Governor and that is not something that a Roman Catholic would be able to do consistently with the current rules of that church.”’

So offensive and outrageous is this that Alex Salmond has demanded an explanation from the Government. But it is only what His Grace has been saying for many years, and has frequently been called an ‘anti-Catholic bigot’ for doing so. Now it appears that the Church of England is full of anti-Catholic bigots.

Or perhaps they simply desire to sustain their liberties, customs and traditions.

His Grace would like to end with just one question for reflection and consideration: Why, at a time when the Government is downgrading religion in education and diminishing its status in the school curriculum, are they intent on enhancing it in Parliament and embedding it within the nation’s politics?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Syria: Assad's slaughter of the innocents

WARNING: This video contains graphic images of President Bashar al-Assad's slaughter of his own people in Syria, as they demonstrate against his tyrannical regime and protest for liberty and democracy. DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO IF YOU ARE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION OR MAY BE OFFENDED BY HIGHLY DISTURBING IMAGES.



Colonel Gaddafi merely threatened to do this in Benghazi and, as a consequence, the Prime Minister decided to send him the way of Saddam. President Assad is actually doing it: this footage is from Good Friday, and dozens more have been slaughtered today. Syrian MPs are resigning in protest. And we do nothing.

Is the life of a Libyan worth more than that of a Syrian?

Thank God for C4 News, who are leading with this story tonight.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien rebukes the Lord Bishop of Oxford


The humanists, atheists and secularists are incandescent: “How dare he,” they spluttered. “How very dare he,” they raged, after Cardinal Keith O’Brien railed against ‘aggressive secularism’ in his Easter homily. Dr Evan Harris was particularly incensed: “Hey Cardinal,” he tweeted, scornfully. “Here's what secularists want & its neither aggressive nor intolerant!” And there was a link to ‘The Secularist Manifesto’, written by, err... Dr Harris himself (did he form no committee?). And its demands are indeed a tad aggressive, since he calls for the curtailing of freedom of religion; a ban on preaching the gospel in public; an end to freedom of association; the eradication of freedom of speech; the emasculation of faith-based education; the disestablishment of the Church of England; and constitutional reform which would forever make the Monarch subject to a higher sovereign power.

Dr Harris’ founding charter is the European Convention on Human Rights, which, as we know, is the mildest, most moderate and utterly innocuous of documents. And yet he nonchalantly asks: ‘Why does Archbishop allege that those who call for church-state separation are "aggressive"?’

His Grace patiently replied, explaining that aggressive means 'openly hostile’; ‘forceful’; ‘self-assertive' (OED). But Dr Harris didn’t engage: he is neither hostile in his assertions nor forceful in his demands, and there is absolutely nothing of 'self' in his secularist charter - it is generous, benevolent and utterly altruistic.

But the Doctor did not respond: he doesn’t play ball with His Grace any more – not since this little spat (which continued). Dr Harris has done a Johann Hari (no, not quite: Mr Hari has blocked His Grace from following his tweets, presumably because of this reasoned response: at least Dr Harris is rather more reasoned and mature than that). But he doesn’t seem to appreciate that Secularism has two main denominations: the Aggressives and the Moderates, and they scarcely acknowledge each other’s existence. So he tweets all day long (quite literally), sometimes moderately and sometimes aggressively (though he fervently denies it), assiduously re-tweeting those who worship at his feet and laud his gospel, patiently waiting for some media outlet to pick up on his agitation (and manifest popularity) and offer him a national pulpit. And yesterday, as if by magic, along came Radio 5 Live, and so Dr Harris, with humility and bashful reluctance, tweets to his secularist-humanist-atheist faithless to announce that he has been chosen to preach an imminent sermon.

It was unfortunate that he ended up debating with Stephen Green of Christian Voice – a rather (how shall His Grace put this?) ‘robust' Christian with a Phelps-like following. But the juxtaposition was doubtless purposeful, and Dr Harris leapt at the chance, once again, to convey the impression and perpetuate the media myth that Christians with conviction are essentially aggressive and hateful bigots.

The curious thing (which appears to have escaped the notice of Dr Harris) is that nowhere did Cardinal Keith O’Brien actually attack aggressive secularists: he criticised what Pope Benedict XVI termed ‘aggressive secularism’, but the clearly-stated ‘–ism’ part eluded Dr Harris (or he purposely chose to ignore it). In his world, to question an ideology is to offend its adherents, rather like the correlation between Islam and Muslims: if you so much as question one action of ‘the Prophet’ (or even audaciously place Mohammed’s moniker in inverted commas), it is potentially offensive and may cause distress or alarm to Muslims. In his Manifesto, Dr Harris seeks to stamp out all such offence, and thereby eradicate historical examination, intellectual reasoning and rational discourse on religion and religious ethics from the public sphere.

Because that is what the Cardinal’s homily essentially was. In the context of history and in a spirit of unity, he referred to the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation and spoke of the importance of the nation’s Christian heritage and culture. He spoke of the challenges of proclaiming Christ in our day, especially in the context of ‘aggressive secularism’ which he defined as the agenda ‘to destroy our Christian heritage and culture and take God from the public square’.

Dr Harris denies, of course, that he is out to destroy our Christian heritage but he is an ardent proponent of eradicating God from the public square. He cannot see the corollary that by pursuing the latter you embark on the former. He cannot see, as Pope Benedict emphasised, that ‘Religion is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation’.

But all the time Dr Harris thought that the Cardinal was ‘preaching hate’ directly to him, he was actually rebuking those bishops and leaders of the Church who are content to sup with the Devil: those who compromise the Faith, undermine Christian mission or preach a gospel more palatable to the National Secular Society, The Guardian and to Polly Toynbee. The Cardinal said: “Christians must be united in their common awareness of the enemies of the Christian faith in our country.”

As the left-leaning Lord Bishop of Oxford joins with Dr Harris and placates the secularists, humanists and atheists, and delights Polly Toynbee with his attack on Church of England schools, he deserves a rebuke.

But it should not need to have come from a Scottish cardinal.

No, while the Archbishop of Canterbury was droning on about David Cameron’s ‘Happiness Index’ and how to achieve ‘authentic happiness’ in ‘growing vegetables or running a drama group’ – how to feel “happy” in a world full of atrocity and injustice – he missed the second-best opportunity of the year to preach salvation to the nation; to exhort the faithful to persevere and run the race; to withstand the forces of evil; and to reproach those who abdicate their spiritual responsibilities, abandon the sheep, and betray their vocation to consort with the enemies of the gospel.

No doubt Dr Evan Harris and the Lord Bishop of Oxford will be taking tea together soon.

To them, His Grace is just an embarrassing monument to hatred and bigotry in the Bishop’s diocese and Dr Harris’ former constituency.

Little do they know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday: victory, triumph, hallelujah!


In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me
(Mt 28:1-10).

Could it be true? He is risen? Who moved the stone? Has evil been overcome? Has death lost its sting?

Fairytales and nonsense. Fiction and myth. Delusion and psychological crutch.

We no longer live in a world where carpenters get resurrected – even those from Nazareth. And so the most seismic preternatural event in the history of mankind and the most crucial celebration of the Christian calendar has become just another day for a lie in, for shopping, football and DIY. Every valley is not so much exalted as made deeper and impassable. The path of faith is harder and the mountains of opposition are getting higher. The United Kingdom is now subject to such an oppressive secularism and militant atheism that freedom of religion is a thing of the past. Not, of course, freedom of worship: that remains. But it is a personal pursuit in the private realm. Christians in the UK are now oppressed to the extent that we may no longer worship Him in spirit and in truth in our daily lives: we may no longer be a living sacrifice; we may no longer run the race and we tread carefully even as we walk it, for fear of offending someone inadvertently with ‘hate speech’ or transgressing some fundamental precept of ‘equality’.

God is dead. It is time to grow up, become enlightened, take responsibility and put aside childish fantasies and superstition. And if He be not dead, He is but one in the state’s emerging pantheon, no more than merely equal to the false prophets and idolatrous gods of the non-believer.

Today is the day to remember that Jesus is not merely equal to Moses, Mohammed, Krishna, Buddha or Nanak. Christus Victor: the resurrection split history in two; it divided BC from AD. While the others are still dead and in their tombs, Jesus is alive. Hallelujah!

And still the whole earth resounds with the joy of that event 2000 years ago. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Just as God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, so He delivered mankind from sin and death that we might have eternal life. The blood of the first Passover which spared Israel’s firstborn foreshadows the second Passover and the Lamb who died that we might be born again.

To have mourned at the cross, despaired at the death, wept at the graveside, and then to have met the Risen Christ must have been an inexpressable joy. Perhaps Handel glimpsed it; maybe Beethoven; but mere words about rejoicing with the angels and archangels seem inadequate. How can His Grace possibly write about it?

His Grace wishes all of his readers and communicants a most joyous and blessed Easter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday: devastation, anguish, hell


Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand
(Jn 19:41f).

The Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the hope of Israel, the long-promised Saviour is dead. He lies lifeless in a tomb. For Christians, after the intensity of the Last Supper and the Passion, this is usually a low-key day of quiet expectation and preparation for tomorrow. And it's going to be a scorcher, so mow the lawn, go for a pint of warm English beer and get the barbeque out.

It is a much misunderstood day, seemingly of no great spiritual significance. Jesus is buried: we are left wondering and waiting. But for the Lord, it was the day he descended to Hades and conquered eternal death.

Most of the Church has forgotten the Harrowing of Hell; those who remember tend to half apologise for it. Certainly, ‘hell’ is not a helpful translation: Jesus was in Hades (ᾍδης) or Sheol (שאול) – a place of peace for some and torment for others. Following the trauma of the crucifixion, Mary was distraught, the disciples were weeping, Judas was hanging, and the Romans, Pharisees and Saducees were rejoicing. But Jesus was descending to the place of departed spirits to preach the Good News and liberate the captives.

The Apostles’ Creed says so (‘He descended into hell’ [BCP]); Aquinas affirms this in his magisterial Summa Theologica (IIIa, q52); the idea is found in some of the earliest writings of the Church Father: Irenaeus, in his tract Contra Haereses (5,31,2) says the Lord ‘tarried until the third day “in the lower parts of the earth” (Eph 4:9)...where the souls of the dead were...’; and Tertullian, in A Treatise on the Soul (60), wrote: ‘With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself.’

The event is referred or alluded to numerous times in Scripture (Acts 2:31; Eph 4:8-10; 1Pt 3:18-20), and many consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) relevant, and also Jesus’ statement to the thief on the cross – ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’ (Lk 23:42f).

Here is not the place to discuss the diverse interpretations of these scriptures and expositions: it is not news that Christians disagree, not least on the soteriological implications of a ‘second chance’ of repentance after death. Whether or not this was the point of salvation for Adam and Eve, Noah, David... cannot be known this side of Glory. What we do know is that the Lord wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4): He wants all to see his image, repent of their sin, take on his likeness, be pure, holy, perfect. He wants everyone to know Him and to love more.

On this Holy Saturday, the final day of Lent, let our faith be made stronger; let us be more assured that sin and death are conquered; let us know a little more of the light through the sometimes impenetrable shadows. Whether the Harrowing of Hell is literal or figurative, corporeal or spiritual, it has a message for all of us today: the highest response to evil is to free people from it. Let us rejoice that our Redeemer lives.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: love, sacrifice, death



Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.
The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand
(Jn 19).

It is curious how many times this episode in the life of Christ is recorded on YouTube and 'crucifixion' is spelt '-fiction'. It is as though the event were but a fairy tale.

John brings us, through the depiction of the utter serenity of Jesus, to a point of silence. For Mark Jesus is the Son of God, for Matthew the King, for Luke the Saviour; but for John, this is the Lamb of God who goes to the slaughter like the animals in Hebrews, ritually bled so that no drop of blood remains in him but is poured on the ground. This is no fiction.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, who was with him at and since the creation of the world, to die the agonising death of a cursed criminal. The cross that killed the Son of God blotted out our every sin: that which was torture for Him was a sweet gift to us – the path to eternal life.

On this Good Friday, take a moment to look at the man hanging upon that cross. Consider that our every selfish thought, our pride, our fits of anger, our lies, jealousy, greed and intolerance drove those nails into His feet and hands. Even in His deepest agony, he was forgiving us.

The death of Christ brought his disciples to the very depths of despair: they were abandoned, mocked and disillusioned. And yet they possessed within their hearts the peace which passes all understanding: an assurance, a hope that their time of testing might pass and that the curse of death might be conquered.

They did not know; they believed.

And the message they believed has been central to the Christian faith for almost 2000 years. It is one that has continually to be reinforced at times of stress, despair and danger, the moments when faith is tested and the will to overcome is undermined. This is why Good Friday is so central in its symbolism: the descent of darkness, the portents of destruction, the expiry of vision and hope. It is the Good Friday that comes to every person at different times, when failure robs life of all meaning, joy and love. It is the collapse of enterprise, confidence, relationships and dignity. It is the descent into Hell.

Christians endure what Josephus referred to as ‘that most wretched of deaths’ on Good Friday because of the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection: it sustains them through the despair. But this life does not promise the joy and ecstasy of Easter: that is for another place. All that we can expect on earth is to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness: the world will hate us, but it hated Him first.

Today is a time to reflect, remember, re-enact how our sin brought Jesus to his death on Calvary and what that death meant for our sinfulness and redemption. How can we not be grateful? Love so amazing, so divine, demands our souls, our lives, our all.

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