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In Full Dependence On The Lord Jesus Christ

From “Christ the Only Rest for the Weary and Heavy-Laden” by George Whitefield

"Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
(Matthew 11:28)

Nothing is more generally known than our duties which belong to Christianity and yet, how amazing is it, nothing is less practised? There is much of it in name and show, but little of it in the heart and conversation; indeed, if going to church, and to the sacrament or, if our being called after the name of Christ and being baptised into that name; if that will make us Christians, I believe all of us would have a claim thereto: but if it consists in the heart, that there must be an inward principle wrought in us by faith; that there must be a change of the whole nature, a putting off the old man with his deeds, a turning from sin unto God, a cleaving only unto the Son of Righteousness; and that there must be a new birth, and we experience the pangs thereof; and that you must feel yourselves weary and heavy laden with your sins, before you will seek for deliverance from them; if this is to be the case, if there is so much in being children of God, alas! how many who please themselves with an outside show, a name to live whilst they are dead; and how few that have any share in this spiritual state, in this true and living name? How few are they who are weary and heavy-laden with their sins, and seek to Christ for rest? They say, in a formal customary manner, we are sinners, and there is no health in us; but how few feel themselves sinners, and are so oppressed in their own spirits, that they have no quiet nor rest in them, because of the burden of their sins, and the weight that is fallen and lays on their minds?

Under these burdens, these heavy burdens, they are at a loss what to do whereby they may obtain rest; they fly to their works, they go to a minister, and he tells them to read, to pray, and meditate, and take the sacrament: thus they go away, and read, and pray, and meditate almost without ceasing, and never neglect the sacrament whenever there is an opportunity for the taking of it. Well, when the poor soul has done all this, it still finds no ease, there is yet no relief. Well, what must you do then? To lie still under the burden they cannot, and to get rid of it then cannot. O what must the burdened soul do! Why, goes to the clergyman again, and tells him the case, and what it has done, and that it is no better. Well, he asks, have you given alms to the poor? Why no. Then go and do that, and you will find rest. Thus the poor sinner is hurried from duty to duty, and still finds no rest: all things are uneasy and disquiet within, and there remains no rest in the soul. And if it was to go through all the duties of religion, and read over a thousand manuals of prayers, none would ever give the soul any rest; nothing will, until it goes to the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is the only true rest; that is the rest which abides and will continue forever. It is not in your own works, nor in your endeavours: no; when Christ comes into your souls, he pardons you, without any respect to your works, either past, present, or to come.

It is not, my brethren, coming with your own works: no, you must come in full dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ, looking on him as the Lord who died to save sinners. Go to him, tell him you are lost, undone, miserable sinners and that you deserve nothing but hell; and when you thus go to the Lord Jesus Christ out of yourself, in full dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will find him an able and a willing saviour; he is pleased to see sinners coming to him in a sense of their own unworthiness and, when their case seems to be most dangerous, most distressed, then the Lord in his mercy steps in and gives you his grace; he puts his Spirit within you, takes away your heart of stone, and gives you a heart of flesh. Stand not out then against this Lord, but go unto him, not in your own strength, but in the strength of Jesus Christ.

And if Jesus Christ gives you rest, you may be sure it will be a rest indeed; it will be such a rest as your soul wants; it will be a rest which the world can neither give nor take away. O come all of you this night, and you shall find rest: Jesus Christ has promised it. Here is a gracious invitation, and do not let a little rain hurry you away from the hearing of it; do but consider what the devil and damned spirits would give to have the offer of mercy, and to accept of Christ, that they may be delivered from the torments they labour under and must do so forever; or, how pleasing would this rain be to them to cool their parched tongues; but they are denied both, while you have mercy offered to you; free and rich mercy to come to Christ; here is food for your souls and the rain is to bring forth the fruits of the earth, as food for your bodies. Here is mercy upon mercy.

Let me beseech you to come unto Christ, and he will give you rest; you shall find rest unto your souls. O you, my weary, burdened brethren, do but go to Christ in this manner, and though you go to him weary, you shall find rest before you come from him: let not anything short of the Lord Jesus Christ be your rest; for wherever you seek you will be disappointed; but if you do but seek unto the Lord Jesus Christ, there you will find a fullness of everything which your weary soul wants. Go to him this night; here is an invitation to all you who are weary souls. He does not call you, O Pharisees; not, it is only you weary sinners; and sure you will not stay from him, but accept of his invitation; do not delay; one moment may be dangerous: death may take you off suddenly. You know not but that a fit of the apoplexy may hurry you from time into eternity; therefore, be not for staying till you have something to bring; come in all your rags, in all your filthiness, in all your distresses, and you will soon find Jesus Christ ready to help, and to relieve you; he loves you as well in your rags, as in your best garments; he regards not your dress; no, do but come unto him, and you shall soon find rest for your souls.

What say you? Shall I tell my Master you will come unto him, and that you will accept him on his own terms? Let me, my brethren, beseech you to take Jesus without anything of your own righteousness: for if you expect to mix anything of yourself with Christ, you build upon a sandy foundation; but if you take Christ for your rest, he will be that unto you. Let me beseech you to build upon this rock of ages. O my brethren, think of the gracious invitation, "Come unto me," to Jesus Christ; it is he that calls you; And will you not go?

Come, come unto him. If your souls were not immortal, and you in danger of losing them, I would not thus speak unto you; but the love of your souls constrains me to speak: methinks this would constrain me to speak unto you forever. Come then by faith, and lay hold of the Lord Jesus; though he is in heaven, he now calls you. Come, all you drunkards, swearers, Sabbath-breakers, adulterers, fornicators; come, all you scoffers, harlots, thieves, and murderers, and Jesus Christ will save you; he will give you rest if you are weary of your sins. O come lay hold upon him. Had I less love for your souls, I might speak less; but that love of God, which is shed abroad in my heart, will not permit me to leave you, till I see whether you will come to Christ or no. O for your life receive him, for fear he may never call you any more. Behold, the Bridegroom comes; it may be this night the cry may be made. Now would you hear this, if you were sure to die before the morning light? God grant you may begin to live, that when the king of terrors shall come, you may have nothing to do but to commit your souls into the hands of a faithful Redeemer.

Expert Advice

Emmanuel Macron stated yesterday that, in respect of Brexit,
"the British people were sold a lie."

We have to take his allegations very seriously indeed as when
it comes to lying to the electorate, the expertise of the Gallic
champion of neoliberalism is second only to Donald Trump.

The Three Stages Of The Spiritual Life

From the sermon, "The Nature and Means of Growth in Grace"
by Archibald Alexander.

Several stages, in the progress of the spiritual life, may be particularly noticed. The first is the state of the Christian immediately after his conversion when both novelty and contrast are combined with the excellence of the objects presented to his view, in the new world into which grace has translated him, to make a more sensible impression on his mind than will be produced by the same truths afterwards. A new creation has, indeed, risen up before him; “old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new.” His wonder is excited, his joy overflows, his hopes are buoyant, and his heart melts with tender compassion for those who are yet out of Christ. His frames are often delightful, but they are transient and, from the mount of vision, he quickly descends into the dark valley of doubt and sorrow. He lives rather by sensible feelings than by faith. His eyes often overflow both with joy and grief. In the exercises of religion, he is full of ardour, nor does he suspect a reverse, nor foresee the dangers which beset his path, In fervency of spirit, and alacrity in the service of God, he seems greatly to outstrip older disciples, who have been long engaged in the Christian race and is sometimes disposed to chide them, because they do not manifest that quick susceptibility of feeling and that glowing zeal with which he feels his own bosom penetrated and warmed.

This period of the Christian's life bears a strong resemblance to infancy and childhood, when a succession of lively emotions fills up our days; when vivacity and activity are predominant traits in our character; when our transitions from one state of feeling to the opposite are sudden and frequent and when our happiness depends very much upon our ignorance of the evils which surround us. The cup of joy would be embittered to the young convert if he had a clear view of the depth of iniquity which still remains in his heart and of the dangers and conflicts which await him in his future pilgrimage.

The second stage is that of temptation and severe conflict. Before, he resembled the young soldier just enlisted, and enjoying his bounty-money; but now his case is like that of the combatant on the field of battle. The same power which opened a passage for the children of Israel through the Red Sea could have transported them to Canaan in a day or an hour, but it was the plan of their invisible leader to conduct them through the wilderness and subject them to numerous difficulties and temptations, that he might put their faith and obedience to a severe test. So, also, our heavenly father could translate his redeemed children at once to heaven, or could render their passage through the world uniformly pleasant; but, instead of pursuing either of these courses, he leaves them to learn, by bitter experience the treachery and wickedness of their own hearts, and the malicious devices of the invisible enemy, who is ever ready to assault and vex them.

These trials, from causes which exist without and within, often come upon the people of God at the time when they have “left their first love" and have become remiss in watchfulness and prayer. A conscience goaded with inward stings is a fit subject for Satan to operate upon with his fiery darts and his usual method is, first to seduce the unwary souls by baits of worldly glory or sensual pleasure and then to attack the debilitated believer with desperate suggestions calculated to make the impression that the favour of God is “clean gone" and that “he will be merciful no more,” or that his sins are unpardonable, or that the day of grace is gone by forever. Now, also, the providence of God seems to combine with other causes to afflict Zion's pilgrim. Dark clouds of adversity gather over him. Earthly comforts decay. The sun of prosperity no longer shines. The fondest hopes are disappointed, and the brightest prospects of earthly bliss obscured. Malignant enemies arise from among those before considered friends, health is broken, slander and reproach assail, dear friends and relatives are buried in the grave, children are disobedient and profligate or die prematurely and, to complete the list of troubles, the church, broken with schism, and overrun with heresy and hypocrisy, sits in sackcloth and mourns. Now the Christian pilgrim spends his days in trouble and his nights in groans and tears. If, under these accumulated evils, the light of the divine countenance was lifted upon him, he could still rejoice in the midst of tribulations but, to add poignancy to all his other griefs, his heavenly father seems to frown upon him. To his most earnest prayers he receives no answer or, if an answer comes, it is only this, “My grace is sufficient for you.” But no evils so grievously afflict the renewed soul, as the emotions of the heart. Evils unsuspected to exist now show themselves, and manifest a strength and obstinacy, which baffle all the resolutions and efforts directed against them. Pride, envy, unbelief, insensibility, impurity, sloth, and evil thoughts without number pollute and harass the afflicted spirit.

These conflicts are not experienced in an equal degree by all Christians, but everyone has his share, and everyone knows the plague of his own heart so much better than that of others, that his secret thought is, that his case is, of all others, the most deplorable and desperate.

In his extremity he is often ready to exclaim, “If I am a child of God, why am I thus? Surely no others are so beset with sinful entanglements, and distracted with contending passions."

There is, probably, in every case of Christian experience, something peculiar, something which distinguishes it from every other case but there is, notwithstanding, so great a general resemblance in the conflicts of the pious that he who knows his own heart sees, as in a glass, the condition of all his brethren. For “as in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man."

This may be termed the winter season of grace. The tree is now stripped of its foliage and its bloom, and very little fruit appears on the branches. But while it is shaken by the fierce blasts, so as to be almost overturned, it may be gaining strength by the concussions and may be striking its roots more firmly in the earth. So the tempted and afflicted Christian, while he experiences a great loss of comfort and sensibility, maybe, and often is, actually growing in grace. Much knowledge of the deceitfulness of the heart and of the exceeding sinfulness of sin is obtained, a deadly blow is struck at the root of self-confidence and self-righteousness, a broken and contrite spirit is produced, Christ and his grace are more highly appreciated and the desire of total and universal purification from sin becomes more constant and intense.

The third and last stage m the progress of the divine life, is a state of settled peace when the violence of the conflict is over and the risings of sinful passions are greatly subdued by the power of divine grace. This is the sweet calm which succeeds the storm. Now there is, instead of doubts and darkness, a comfortable assurance of the favour of God. This period is characterised by a steady trust in the promises and providence of God and a meek submission to his holy will. The mature Christian is not less sensible of the depth of remaining depravity than before, (for the more holy he becomes, the more quick-sighted he is to discern the minutest spots which defile the inner man) but he has now learned to “live by faith in the Son of God" and has formed the habit of continual application to the ''blood of sprinkling" and to “the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness." Many of his former besetting sins are indeed subdued and he has learned the necessity of vigilance in guarding against the occasions of sin, as well as against the first buddings of evil desire; but his peace does not result from any views which he takes of an increase of sanctification in himself, but from keeping his eyes steadily fixed on ''Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith.”

This advanced state of piety is also characterised by an increasing deadness to the world and all selfish interests and by an enlarged and sincere goodwill to all men, but especially by a tender solicitude for the prosperity of Zion, and an anxious desire for the salvation of men.

This has sometimes been denominated the state of contemplation because in it the meditations of the Christian are much occupied with heavenly things. The glory of the invisible world makes a deeper and more constant impression on his mind than formerly and his thoughts are often elevated to delightful contemplations of the heavenly state. The aged saint who has become mature in grace and whose faith has grown strong, spends much of his time, by day and by night, in meditating on that “rest which remains for the people of God." In this exercise, his soul is frequently absorbed and he is fired with an intense desire “to be absent from the body and present with the Lord;” yet his submission to the divine will, and his desire to promote the glory of Christ on earth, will not permit him to be impatient. He is willing to wait, even in the midst of suffering, until his change come.

How beautiful, how lovely, how venerable, is old age, thus laden with the fruits of piety and like a shock of corn fully ripe waiting to be gathered into the garner of the Lord!

When the veteran soldier of the cross is unable to perform any more active service for his Master, he still watches about the doors of the sanctuary; he still lifts up his withered and trembling hands in prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. He is ever waiting for the consolation of Israel and when the Saviour appears by some remarkable manifestation of favour to his church, he can exclaim with Simeon of old, “Now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation." And often, when the vigour of the mental faculties begins to fail, the flame of piety continues to bum brightly and, on a dying bed, such Christians exhibit a spectacle than which there is nothing more lovely and interesting on this side heaven. Calm submission, humble confidence, holy aspirations, the kind emotions of benevolence and the sublime joy of the divine favour, often render the chamber of death like the vestibule of the temple above. Who, then, would not join in the prayer, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his”?

Worthy Of Life Everlasting

From “Knowing the Love of God” by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

The acorn could not become an oak unless it was of the same species and had essentially the same life as the grown tree; the child could not become a man unless he already possessed a human nature, even though in an imperfect state. In the same way, the Christian on earth could not become one of the blessed in Heaven unless he had previously received the divine life. To understand thoroughly the essence of the acorn, it is necessary to consider this essence in its perfect state in an oak tree. In the same way, if we wish to understand the essence of the life of grace in us, we must consider it as an embryonic form of everlasting life, as the very seed of glory. Fundamentally, it is the same divine life but two differences are to be noted. Here below we can know God only obscurely through faith and not in the direct light of vision. Moreover, through the inconstancy of our free will we can lose supernatural life, while in Heaven it is impossible to be lost. Except for these two differences, it is a question of the same divine life.

To the Samaritan woman, Jesus spoke: “But anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14).

“For, you must know, the Kingdom of God is among you” (Lk. 17:21).

Like the grain of mustard seed, the leaven that ferments the dough or the treasure hidden in the field, the Kingdom outwardly does not make a striking appearance. Yet the life of grace is basically identical with that in Heaven. Jesus said so.

Without doubt while on earth we cannot see God with clarity of vision and yet truly it is he whom we attain with our faith because we believe his word that already reveals to us the profundity of God.

“Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us. Therefore we teach, not in the way in which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us: we teach spiritual things Spiritually. An unSpiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:12-14).

Certainly, supernatural life can be lost but that comes from the fact that we can go astray and fail. Grace, however, the charity in us, is in itself absolutely incorruptible, like spring water that can be preserved for an indeterminate period of time provided its container does not break, or like an indestructible force that would never cease working so long as the instruments it makes use of do not refuse to work.

“For love is strong as Death” (Song. 8:6).

Love is strong, like death, and nothing can resist it. Its ardour is the blaze of fire, the flame of Yahweh.

“Love no flood can quench, no torrents drown” (ibid, 8:7).

It triumphs over persecutions, over the most terrible tortures and the powers of hell. We too will be invincible if we allow ourselves to be penetrated by this love. No created force will be able to overcome us.

This love, then, is identical to that of Heaven. It presupposes that we have been “born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself” (Jn. 1:13); that we are the sons and friends of God and not merely his servants; that we participate even in this life in the very nature and infinite life of God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:9). We treat of an adopted yet real sonship, because the gratuitous love of God is essentially active in relation to us, making us similar to him, just and holy in his eyes, worthy of life everlasting.

Brexit Highlights Unreliabilty Of The Liberal Left

One thing that Brexit has shown is how fearful middle-class liberals are of any change that might affect their personal standard of living. They have been willing to ignore the result of the referendum, abandon the democratic process and call for a dictatorial government in order to maintain the status quo of modern, neoliberal capitalism.

I think we can infer from this that, whatever left-wing views they may profess in public, they can never be relied on for actual support should any serious redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor be attempted in the future.

Brexit Comment

As both May and Corbyn want to honour the British public's decision to leave the E.U., the sensible course of action would be for the two of them to agree on a deal that the remaining E.U. members might accept even if that deal was entirely Corbyn's wishlist. Of course, it would probably be voted down by Labour MPs who want to overturn the referendum result but I think it would stand more of a chance of getting through Parliament than May's defeated deal ever did.

Sadly, Corbyn would more than likely refuse to cooperate as his main aim seems to be to force a general election. Personally, I believe that even if Labour was to win a general election the mathematics would still be the same and we would be no further on.

Perhaps a hard Brexit is the only option available. If so, we should just do it and move on into whatever the future may hold for us. At least, it would be what those who voted to leave the E.U. wanted as I doubt that any of them voted to leave with a deal. They just wanted out.

One Tribe

From “Knowing Jesus” by James Alison.

One of the first questions we can ask ourselves about whether or not we know Jesus is: to what extent are we caught up in a sectarian frame of mind? To what extent are our responses tribal? Let me suggest ways in which we might be: whenever we behave as though some group to which we belong is self-evidently superior to, more truth-bearing than, some other group. That is to say, whenever there is a note of comparison in our reactions and behaviour. The comparison can be to our favour, as when we consider ourselves superior, or to our detriment, as when we take on the role of the oppressed victim of society, or whatever. Both of these comparative forms of behaviour betray that we have not found the givenness of the self-giving victim as the foundation of our unity.

So, for instance, Catholics may easily talk of Protestants, or Muslims, as though the Catholic Church were superior to these other groups. Thus, belonging to the Catholic Church makes of one a superior sort of person: after all one knows the truths of the faith and belongs to the true Church. This attitude is not uncommon, and it gives a sort of feeling of combative brotherhood with other fellow Catholics, a strengthened sense of belonging as one faces up to a world run by a hideous army of Protestants, pagans, Masons and what-have-you. In some countries, the word ‘Jew' would traditionally be part of this list of others. Well, I hope that gives it away. The unity that is created in this way - even the laughing emotional bonding that seems to have no practical consequences, is created at the expense of a victim or victims, at the expense of an exclusion. That is to say, it is a unity that is derived over-against some other. And that is to betray the very deepest truth of the Catholic faith, the universal faith, which by its very nature, has no over-against. The unity which is given by and in the risen victim is purely given. It is indicative of no superiority at all over anyone else. Anyone who genuinely knows the crucified and risen victim can never again belong wholeheartedly to any other social or cultural, or religious group. He or she will always belong critically to all other groups because all other groups derive their unity over-against someone or some other group.

The only unity to which he or she cannot escape belonging is the new unity of humanity that the Holy Spirit creates out of the risen victim, the unity which subverts all other unities. And this new unity is not yet a realised unity, as must be apparent. The Church does not teach that it is the kingdom of heaven, which is the realisation of the unity in the new Israel, but that it is the universal sacrament of that kingdom. That is to say that it is the efficacious sign of a reality that has been realised only in embryo. As such, it is radically subversive of all other forms of belonging, all other ways of constructing unity. But it is so as a gift from God.

So, knowing Jesus implies, of necessity, a gradual setting free from any tribal sense of belonging, and the difficult passage into a sense of belonging that is purely given. Its only security is the gratuity of the giver, and that means a belonging in a group that has no ‘abiding city’, that unlike the fox, has no hole, and unlike the bird, has no nest.

Be Persuaded

From “Homily XLVII” (on “The Gospel of John” chapter six,
verses fifty-three and fifty-four) by John Chrysostom.

God is not wont to make men good by compulsion and force, neither is his election and choice compulsory on those who are called, but persuasive. And that you may learn that the calling does not compel, consider how many of these who have been called have come to perdition, so that it is clear that it lies in our own will also to be saved, or to perish.

Therefore, on hearing these things, let us learn to be always sober and to watch. For if when he who was reckoned among that holy band, who had enjoyed so great a gift, who had wrought miracles (for he too was with the others who were sent to raise the dead and to heal lepers), if when he was seized by the dreadful disease of covetousness, and betrayed his master, neither the favours, nor the gifts, nor the being with Christ, nor the attendance on him, nor the washing the feet, nor the sharing his table, nor the bearing the bag, availed him, if these things rather served to help on his punishment, let us also fear lest we ever through covetousness imitate Judas. You do not betray Christ. But when you neglect the poor man wasting with hunger, or perishing with cold, that man draws upon you the same condemnation. When we partake of the mysteries unworthily, we perish equally with the Christ-slayers. When we plunder, when we oppress those weaker than ourselves, we shall draw down upon us severest punishment. And with reason; for how long shall the love of things present so occupy us, superfluous as they are and unprofitable? Wealth consists in superfluities, in which no advantage is. How long shall we be nailed to vanities? How long shall we not look through and away into heaven, not be sober, not be satiated with these fleeting things of earth, not learn by experience their worthlessness? Let us think of those who before us have been wealthy; are not all those things a dream, are they not a shadow, a flower, are they not a stream which flows by, a story and a tale? Such a man has been rich, and where now is his wealth? It has gone, has perished, but the sins done by reason of it stay by him, and the punishment which is because of the sins. Yes, surely if there were no punishment, if no kingdom were set before us, it would still be a duty to show regard for those of like descent and family, to respect those who have like feelings with ourselves. But now we feed dogs, and many of us wild asses, and bears, and different beasts, while we care not for a man perishing with hunger; and a thing alien to us is more valued than that which is of our kin, and our own family less honoured than creatures which are not so, nor related to us.

Is it a fine thing to build one’s self splendid houses, to have many servants, to lie and gaze at a gilded roof? Why then, assuredly, it is superfluous and unprofitable. For other buildings there are, far brighter and more majestic than these; on such we must gladden our eyes, for there is none to hinder us. Will you see the fairest of roofs? At eventide look upon the starred heaven.

“But,” someone says, “this roof is not mine.”

Yet in truth this is more yours than that other. For you it was made, and is common to you and to your brethren; the other is not yours, but theirs who after your death inherit it. The one may do you the greatest service, guiding you by its beauty to its creator; the other the greatest harm, becoming your greatest accuser at the Day of Judgment, inasmuch as it is covered with gold, while Christ has not even needful raiment. Let us not, I entreat you, be subject to such folly, let us not pursue things which flee away, and flee those which endure; let us not betray our own salvation, but hold fast to our hope of what shall be hereafter; the aged, as certainly knowing that but a little space of life is left us; the young, as well persuaded that what is left is not much. For that day comes like a thief in the night. Knowing this, let wives exhort their husbands, and husbands admonish their wives; let us teach youths and maidens, and all instruct one another, to care not for present things, but to desire those which are to come, that we may be able also to obtain them; through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.

In Praise Of The Ass

Today is the Feast of the Ass, an observance popular in the Middle Ages which celebrated the role of asses and donkeys in the Bible especially the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus's birth. The rite for the day would often include a girl and a child on a donkey being led through the town to the church, where the donkey would stand beside the altar during the sermon, and the congregation would "hee-haw" their responses to the priest.

The killjoy Church stamped out the practice during the fifteenth century. I would like to see its reintroduction. Asses, donkeys, mules, horses, camels and other beasts of burden deserve a special day on which they are given thanks for and prayed for and hee-hawing at priests in the middle of their sermons should be encouraged although only when it is deserved, of course.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

When I was a lad, shirts came with tails. This meant that a gentleman had ample material to tuck into his trousers. This not only provided extra warmth to those regions of the human anatomy that you most certainly do not want to succumb to frostbite during an English winter but also meant that if you stretched up or bent down you did not expose your midriff and/or lower back and crack to the elements and the public's gaze.

Nowadays, shirtmakers seem loath to provide a covering for more than a couple of inches of flesh south of one's belly button. I am a man of average height and yet I am forever having to tuck myself in. Anyone in excess of six foot tall must go around in permanent danger of contracting a cold in their kidneys (something my mother would always warn me about whenever she caught me in sartorial disarray).

Sanctifying Grace

From “The Seven Storey Mountain” by Thomas Merton.

There is a paradox that lies in the very heart of human existence. It must be apprehended before any lasting happiness is possible in the soul of a man. The paradox is this: man’s nature, by itself, can do little or nothing to settle his most important problems. If we follow nothing but our natures, our own philosophies, our own level of ethics, we will end up in hell.

This would be a depressing thought if it were not purely abstract. Because in the concrete order of things God gave man a nature that was ordered to a supernatural life. He created man with a soul that was made not to bring itself to perfection in its own order, but to be perfected by him in an order infinitely beyond the reach of human powers. We were never destined to lead purely natural lives, and therefore we were never destined in God's plan for a purely natural beatitude. Our nature, which is a free gift of God, was given to us to be perfected and enhanced by another free gift that is not due it.

This free gift is “sanctifying grace." It perfects our nature with the gift of a life, an intellection, a love, a mode of existence infinitely above its own level. If a man were to arrive even at the abstract pinnacle of natural perfection, God’s work would not even be half done: it would be only about to begin, for the real work is the work of grace and the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

What is “grace”? It is God‘s own life, shared by us. God’s life is love. Deus caritas est. By grace, we are able to share in the infinitely selfless love of him who is such pure actuality that he needs nothing and therefore cannot conceivably exploit anything for selfish ends. Indeed, outside of him, there is nothing, and whatever exists exists by his free gift of its being, so that one of the notions that is absolutely contradictory to the perfection of God is selfishness. It is metaphysically impossible for God to be selfish, because the existence of everything that is depends upon his gift, depends upon his unselfishness.

When a ray of light strikes a crystal, it gives a new quality to the crystal. And when God's infinitely disinterested love plays upon a human soul, the same kind of thing takes place. And that is the life called sanctifying grace.

The soul of man, left to its own natural level, is a potentially lucid crystal left in darkness. It is perfect in its own nature. but it lacks something that it can only receive from outside and above itself: But when the light shines in it, it becomes in a manner transformed into light and seems to lose its nature in the splendour of a higher nature, the nature of the light that is in it.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

I really do not believe I can go through another year without being able to carry out my priestly ministry within a real-life community. I am not necessarily looking for paid work or full-time work; I am just looking for somewhere to belong and be useful.

Why is nobody who could help me, or who could introduce me to somebody who could help me, prepared to do so? I have to conclude that it is simply because they do not believe I should be allowed to practice my calling.

I suspect that soon my body will take pity on my mind and put a stop to the anguish once and for all as I am incapable of taking that step myself.

The Rosetta Stone Of Faith

From “ Reaching for the Invisible God” by Philip Yancey:

Step back for a moment and contemplate God’s point of view. A spirit unbound by time and space, God had borrowed material objects now and then (a burning bush, a pillar of fire) to make an obvious point on planet Earth. Each time, God adopted the object in order to convey a message and then moved on. In Jesus, something new happened: God became one of the planet’s creatures, an event unparalleled, unheard of, unique in the fullest sense of the word.

The God who fills the universe imploded to become a peasant baby who, like every infant who has ever lived, had to learn to walk and talk and dress himself. In the incarnation, God’s Son deliberately “handicapped” himself, exchanging omniscience for a brain that learned Aramaic phoneme by phoneme, omnipresence for two legs and an occasional donkey, omnipotence for arms strong enough to saw wood but too weak for self-defence. Instead of overseeing a hundred billion galaxies at once, he looked out on a narrow alley in Nazareth, a pile of rocks in the Judean desert, or a crowded street of Jerusalem.

Because of Jesus, we need never question God’s desire for intimacy. Does God really want close contact with us? Jesus gave up Heaven for it. In person, he reestablished the original link between God and human beings, between seen and unseen worlds.

In a fine analogy, H. Richard Niebuhr likened the revelation of God in Christ to the Rosetta stone. Before its discovery scholars could only guess at the meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics. One unforgettable day they uncovered a dark stone that rendered the same text in three different languages. By comparing the translations side by side, they mastered hieroglyphics and could now see clearly into a world they had known only in a fog.

Niebuhr goes on to say that Jesus allows us to “reconstruct our faith.” We can trust God because we trust Jesus. If we doubt God or find him incomprehensible, unknowable, the very best cure is to gaze steadily at Jesus, the Rosetta stone of faith.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

I am having problems seeing Nancy Pelosi as a good thing. It seems to me that the things people are saying she is good for are not good in any moral way; in fact, they could be regarded as downright wicked. In other words, it's business as usual, at the top at least and the Democrats remain the party for rich people who are slightly worried that there may be a hell below.

Soul Force

From "I Have a Dream…" by Martin Luther King Jr.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Dredging The Oozy Bottom Of Creation

From "Miracles" by C. S. Lewis

In the Christian story, God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the nature he has created.

But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too.

In this descent and re-ascent, everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life re-ascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult. So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that, there is a re-ascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and re-birth (go down to go up) it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.

The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the divine theme into a minor key. I am not now referring simply to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real death and re-birth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and re-ascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.

The Petty Lies Of Bureaucracy

Politicians will always lie, as will company directors and senior civil servants; we expect them to and when they tell fibs it rarely unsettles us. It is the petty lies of bureaucracy that cause the real damage to our emotional wellbeing. They coagulate together into massive globs of deception that insinuate themselves into the fabric of our lives and infect each one of us with their cynicism. I will give you an example.

You have to pay to park almost everywhere in Chester-Le-Street, the nearest town to the village I live in. This means people drive to the out-of-town megastores to do their shopping because it is always free to park at such places. This, in turn, means that the high street is dying, shops are closing down, most are either boarded up or occupied by charities, bookmakers or here today, gone tomorrow discount stores. The council that benefits from the indirect taxation on people who cannot afford to live in the town centre (a council based in Durham where the rich people live and not locally) throws a sop to the few remaining store owners every year by allowing free parking after three o'clock in the afternoon throughout December. There is a notice on each ticket machine stating this and also pointing out that the machines have not been adjusted to allow for the freebie and that any money paid into them after three o'clock will be gobbled up. Then comes the lie. The same notice tells us emphatically that any monies lost in this way "cannot" be reimbursed.

Of course, they can. There is no law or local regulation that says they cannot be. If you mistakenly pay after three o'clock you are given a ticket just like at any other time of year. These tickets, that are marked with time, place and length of stay could be presented to the relevant authority for reimbursement. No problem.

The truth is that it would cost money to do it. It would be an uneconomical scheme for both the council and the person who had mistakenly paid when they did not have to (the price of postage alone would be more than the amount recovered). So, what the notice should say is that the money "will not" be reimbursed. But "will not" admits that it is the council's deliberate decision not to repay overpayments whilst "cannot" linguistically passes the buck onto some mysterious entity that hovers above us all dictating the governmental annoyances that assault us as we struggle to get through each day.

The thing is, as I said at the beginning, we become infected by these petty lies to the extent that we routinely employ them ourselves. We blatantly lie to our families, our friends and strangers we meet in our daily lives in order to give ourselves plausible deniability should anyone dare to hold us to account. We also lie on social media, especially when we are engaged in political and moral arguments when we routinely use linguistic sleights of hand to encourage people to believe that things that are not true, or may not be true, are true.

The Year Turns Round Again

I'll wager a hat full of guineas
against all the songs you can sing,
that some day you'll love,
and the next day you'll lose,
and winter will turn into spring.

And the snow falls, the wind calls,
the year turns round again;
and like Barleycorn who rose from the grave,
a new year will rise up again.

And there will come a time of great plenty,
a time of good harvest and sun;
till then put your trust in tomorrow, my friend,
for yesterday's over and done.

Ploughed, sown, reaped, and mown:
the year turns round again;
and like Barleycorn who rose from the grave
a new year will rise up again.

Phoebe arise, a gleam in her eyes,
and the year turns round again;
and like Barleycorn who rose from the grave,
a new year will rise up again.

The Saint Laika Christmas Appeal 2018: Update

With just one week left this year's Christmas Appeal has amassed a mighty £640.32 ($813.72) in donations A huge thank you to those who contributed.

Of course, it would be even better if we could get closer to our target of one thousand English pounds in the time we have left. So, please, if (and only if) you can afford to, consider making a donation to my ministry as an online priest. Here is the campaign blurb, including details concerning how to donate:

Dear friends of Saint Laika's and mates of MadPriest, once again it is that time of year when I come to you, cap in hand, to ask you to consider making a donation to keep my online Christian ministry afloat and to make my Christmas a happier one than it would be without your help.

My work at the Saint Laika website and the Saint Laika Facebook page is my fulltime ministry and the donations I receive from my friends who support me are my only source of income. I receive around five hundred pounds a month which is okay for my day to day expenses but not enough to cover unexpected bills and times of increased spending such as Christmas. Therefore, I run two specific appeals a year, one in June and one in December, to raise much needed extra cash.

Through the 2018 Christmas Appeal, I hope to raise enough money to cover my website costs (£150ish), a ten-week course of therapy as I am mentally not too good at the moment (£400 exactly) and the money to buy my wife a really cool Christmas present and a first-rate Christmas dinner, as without her support through thick and thin I would be dead by now, no doubt about it.

To contribute towards this fundraiser please use one of the PayPal buttons below (one is for US dollars and the other is for GB pounds). You can use either, whatever country you live in and you do not need to set up your own PayPal account to make a donation.

Thank you, my friends. You really are top people.

Jonathan




DOLLARS




POUNDS

A Voice Is Heard In Ramah

From a letter of Pope Francis to Roman Catholic bishops
on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, 2016.

In these days we experience how the liturgy leads us to the heart of Christmas, into the mystery which gradually draws us to the source of Christian joy. As pastors, we are called to help foster this joy among the faithful. We are charged with protecting this joy.

Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive. They did not indulge in words that were comforting but unrelated to reality. For them, Christmas was not a flight to fantasy, a way of hiding from the challenges and injustices of their day. On the contrary, they relate the birth of the Son of God as an event fraught with tragedy and grief.

Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, Matthew presents it in the bluntest of terms: “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children." It is the sobbing of mothers bewailing the death of their children in the face of Herod’s tyranny and unbridled thirst for power.

Today too, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence. In our world, we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, of so many families, for the death of their children, their innocent children.

To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbours, especially where children are involved. It also means realising that that sad chapter in history is still being written today. To contemplate the manger in isolation from the world around us would make Christmas into a lovely story that inspires warm feelings but robs us of the creative power of the good news that the incarnate Word wants to give us. The temptation is real.

Can we truly experience Christian joy if we turn our backs on these realities? Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?

There are at present seventy-five million children who, due to prolonged situations of emergency and crisis, have had to interrupt their education. In 2015, sixty-eight per cent of all persons who were victims of sexual exploitation were children. At the same time, a third of all children who have to live outside their homelands do so because forcibly displaced. We live in a world where almost half of the children who die under the age of five do so because of malnutrition. It is estimated that in 2016 there were one hundred and fifty million child labourers, many of whom live in conditions of slavery. According to the most recent report presented by UNICEF, unless the world situation changes, in 2030 there will be one hundred and sixty-seven million children living in extreme poverty, sixty-nine million children under the age of five will die between 2016 and 2030, and sixteen million children will not receive basic schooling.

We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church our Mother, who weeps not only for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters but also because she recognises the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power. The Church also weeps bitterly over this sin of her sons and she asks forgiveness. Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to “zero tolerance”.

Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow.

A New Year Curse

May the God of all created beings guide the feet of every person who celebrates the beginning of the new year with or at firework displays into full union with a pile of really smelly dog poo at least once a week throughout the coming year.
( Jonathan Hagger, priest )

Brothers And Sisters

From Pope Francis' Christmas message, 2018.

What does that Child, born for us of the Virgin Mary, have to tell us? What is the universal message of Christmas? It is that God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters. This truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity. Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty. For this reason, my wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity. Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another. Fraternity among persons of different religions.

Jesus came to reveal the face of God to all those who seek him. The face of God has been revealed in a human face. It did not appear in an angel, but in one man, born in a specific time and place. By his incarnation, the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures. Yet all of us are brothers and sisters in humanity. Our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness. As when an artist is about to make a mosaic, it is better to have tiles of many colours available, rather than just a few. The experience of families teaches us this: as brothers and sisters, we are all different from each other. We do not always agree, but there is an unbreakable bond uniting us, and the love of our parents helps us to love one another. The same is true for the larger human family, but here, God is our "parent," the foundation and strength of our fraternity. May this Christmas help us to rediscover the bonds of fraternity linking us together as individuals and joining all peoples.

Earthrise

Fifty years ago today.

Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.

(Psalm 148:1-4 )

A World Of New Gifts And Fresh Starts

From "A Gospel of Hope" by Walter Brueggemann

As Paul speaks of the God of hope who gives new futures out of love, he knew about a world of despair that trafficked in brutality. And so do we. The world of despair believes that there are no new gifts, no fresh generosity, no possibility of newness or forgiveness, and so life becomes a zero-sum game to see who can stay the longest on top of the heap, all the while knowing that there will be no good outcome to the futile rat race. Well, here is the news. Out beyond that despair that sanctions road rage and violence against the poor and war and ruthless exploitation that leaves one exhausted if not half dead, there is an alternative world bodied in Jesus. It is a world of new gifts and fresh starts grounded in divine forgiveness and sustained by generosity. That world is on offer in this one who is about to be born among us.

A Folk Nine Lessons And Carols 2018

Here it is! This year's, much anticipated, Folk Nine Lessons and Carols, a service of scripture spoken solemnly and carols from the folk tradition sung raucously. You are more likely to hear these carols performed in a pub than in a church. So pour yourself a pint of heavy or a glass of mulled wine, press play and enjoy.

Click on the arrow on the left of the player below to listen.


CLICK HERE for the order of service and details of the music featured.

Giving Birth To The Word Of God

From a commentary by Ambrose of Milan on Saint Luke's Gospel

The angel Gabriel had announced the news of something that was as yet hidden and so, to buttress the Virgin Mary’s faith by means of a real example, he told her also that an old and sterile woman had conceived, showing that everything that God willed was possible to God.

When Mary heard this she did not disbelieve the prophecy, she was not uncertain of the message, she did not doubt the example: but happy because of the promise that had been given, eager to fulfil her duty as a cousin, hurried by her joy, she went up into the hill country.

Where could she hurry to except to the hills, filled with God as she was? The grace of the Holy Spirit does not admit of delays. And Mary’s arrival and the presence of her Son quickly show their effects: As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting her child leapt in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

See the careful distinction in the choice of words. Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice but her son John was the first to feel the effects of grace. She heard as one hears in the natural course of things; he leapt because of the mystery that was there. She sensed the coming of Mary, he the coming of the Lord; the woman knew the woman, the child knew the child. The women speak of grace while inside them grace works on their babies. And by a double miracle, the women prophesy under the inspiration of their unborn children.

The infant leapt and the mother was filled with the Spirit. The mother was not filled before her son: her son was filled with the Holy Spirit and in turn, filled his mother. John leapt and so did Mary’s spirit. John leapt and filled Elizabeth with the Spirit, but we know that Mary was not filled but her spirit rejoiced. For the Incomprehensible was working incomprehensibly within his mother. Elizabeth had been filled with the Spirit after she conceived, but Mary before, at the moment the angel had come. “Blessed are you,” said Elizabeth, “who believed”.

You too, my people, are blessed, you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes, that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognises his works.

Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh, only one woman can be the mother of Christ but in the world of faith, Christ is the fruit of all of us. For every soul can receive the Word of God if only it is pure and preserves itself in chastity and modesty.

The soul that has been able to reach this state proclaims the greatness of the Lord just as Mary did and rejoices in God its saviour just like her.

The Lord’s greatness is proclaimed, as you have read elsewhere, where it says, "Join me in magnifying the Lord."

This does not mean that anything can be added to the Lord’s greatness by human words, but that he is magnified in us. Christ is the image of God and so any good or religious act that a soul performs magnifies that image of God in that soul, the God in whose likeness the soul itself was made. And thus the soul itself has some share in his greatness and is ennobled.

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