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1. Gathering – Into One
The whole Christian people are gathered to intercede for the society to which they are sent. 1. The whole Church speaks The whole Christian people are gathered to intercede for the society to which they are sent. The Church is given by God to society, and so the Church is sent to a particular society to sing the praises of God to it. This worship is public. It is given to man by God; it is open to all mankind and so in that sense it is public. It turns us towards one another, and so makes for an open and strong society, with a confident public sphere. What the whole Church sings and confesses is good for society, and society is dependent on it. God gives the whole world to the Church. He brings the world to attention of the Church so that Church should be Christ’s witness to it and intercede for it. Only the people brought together by the Holy Spirit, and so by the power that the Church has glimpsed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, are empowered to be the intercessors for the world. When the Church is assembled it is Christ, standing before the world to hear it and speak to it in mercy and judgment. And it can sing:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors : and the King of glory shall come in. Who is the King of glory : even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory (Psalm 24)
2. The Church is apostolic The whole Church gathers around its their bishop. He is their pastor, which is to say, the shepherd and protector of this flock. With him the whole Church is an image of the apostles and people gathered around Christ. This one people stands constant and unchanging, while the world around them changes and vanishes. For the sake of the world, God will make his church stand forever. The bishop is an apostle. We do not choose him, but the greater worldwide Church has sent him to us. We could take any member of the congregation and set them before us, or rather receive him from the worldwide Church; but, having received him, he is then the apostle and witness of Christ around whom we gather, and we cannot choose any others. These apostles point out to us where Christ is; they are the ones who are able to identify him. This apostle is a witness, and therefore a ‘martyr’, mostly because he takes the
knocks given to him mostly by his own Church. He is sent to us from all the rest of the Church. He represents the love, and the love-gift, of the global church given to us. The bishop is the single figure around whom we meet and worship. He is the icon of Christ for us. He can be this figure because, the Christian faith tells us, the single figure of man is unsurpassable. Humans are not significant merely in the mass, but in the absolute singularity of every one of them. The particularity of each person is fundamental. And we ordain one particular man to be this figure that is publicly unique, and he and no one else plays this role for all of us. The bishop is able to be this figure only for his Church and before the Church, only when surrounded by his deacons and people. He presides at the eucharist, and thus he stands in the centre of the gathered Church. He is the view we see, and so he himself is the eucharistic element, the presence of Christ. He is the figure of man who is with God. But why should the bishop be the central figure for the whole Church? Many communities of Christians are not ready to acknowledge such a figure. Can this concentration on this single Christian be right? Some communities emphasise that the gifts of leadership are diffused through a team of leaders. Some may object that a particular bishop does not seem to have the Spirit’s anointing, or seems to lack the more conspicuous of the Spirit’s gifts. Perhaps he is no extrovert, or have few social graces; perhaps he seems a grey, remote and elderly figure. How can he appeal to the whole community and above all to the young church? Many Christian communities are founded by one charismatic leader. He attracts great numbers of young Christians and may build a community in which many of the gifts of Christ are evident. But what understanding of charismatic is then at work? Do we regard him as a leader even when neither he nor we know how to distinguish between spiritual discipleship and other more conspicuous gifts that attract greater numbers of followers, and which may only indicate a very much more worldly success? If he does not give any public acknowledgement of the discipline of whole, catholic Church what authority is this leader himself under? How can his people be confident in his leadership if he does not concede that there are criteria against which it can be tested or that there are any outside his own community who are competent to judge him and call him to account? For such charismatic communities there is a succession problem. When the discipleship of the community is expressed through love of his person, what happens when this leader dies? How does that community identify another similarly charismatic figure to replace him? Many such Christian communities do not survive beyond the second generation of leadership. Although these issues are relevant to the whole Church, where there are the disciplines, traditions and structures, the judgment and succession of individual Christian leaders does not bring churches into crisis. The test of whether the bishop is truly charismatic, that is, whether he displays all the gifts of the Spirit that are given to the Church, is whether he himself follows the way of the cross and is ready to die.
Salvation, catholicity and ecumenism Every one of us is a member of the whole Church of Christ. The Christian life and faith is the sole path to the universal reconciliation of man. The gospel is this reconciliation of every household and community with every other, so we can say that catholicity or ecumenism is simply what the gospel achieves. We are catholic as we look towards our reconciliation with all other churches. We must pray for them, and mention them in our intercessions, and we mourn our separation from them. But we must also treat them as those who have some portion of Christ and so as those we must learn from and submit to. In the apprenticeship of this Christian life we learn to reach out to the whole of the rest of the Church, indeed to the future completion of the Church, when Christ shall be all in all. The bishop is not bishop only of the Anglican and ‘episcopalian’ church, that is, of the churches that recognise bishops. He is bishop to every church and ecclesial community. The office of bishop is intrinsically ecumenical, because it is intrinsically the very office of Christ, who calls all men to obedience. He commands them to unity and obedience, and they must hear and obey. Ecumenism is not an option that may or may not be taken, but the evangelical command of God, that is, the assertion, for our sake, of the lordship of God. All Superintendents and Moderators of Methodist or Presbyterian churches should acknowledge that they are all bishops by another name, and should be reconciled to their fellow bishops. The bishop has authority. The bishop is whole united Church made visible for our sake in one single person. The bishop who loves his Church, uses that authority. When he does not use that authority, the authority derived from the liturgy, not all the Christian institutions can fill the gap, though every form of ministry will be an adequate attempt to compensate. When the bishop’s failure to lead. When he does not exercise his authority, it is because he has not yet learned to love. Perfect love has not yet cast out fear. He has not learned how to recognise the neediness of his people or to pity their vulnerability. All the institutions we have are compensations for the failure to honour the bishop, that is our failure to recognise whole united Church in the person set before us for that end. It is a failure to recognise and to discern the body and thus a failure to recognise the Lord. All praise be thine O Lord of heaven for those unto whom the charge is given to tend and feed the souls of men until thy Son shall come again (NEH 221) We are under many authorities in the Church, but this one particular person, the bishop is all these authorities conveniently packaged in one person. You can go and speak to him, and tell him whatever is on your mind. He is an apostle, one of the Twelve, here for us. He is our ‘reverend Father in God’. We have to treat him as a spiritual giant. His people should never leave him alone, but always demand some blessing and wisdom, some correction and warning from him. They must ask him to lead them, and remind him that he is surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. As the Ordination service tells us, 138
bishops ‘are to govern Christ’s people in truth, lead them out to proclaim the good news of the kingdom and prepare them to stand before him when at last he comes in glory.’ The bishop stands in the Church, he speaks from it, and primarily he speaks to it. He does not speak primarily to the world, and he certainly does not speak to the world without the Church, or intimate that he has anything to offer other than what the Church offers to the world. The bishop speaks to the Church and the Church speaks to the world. Any minister of the Church that bypasses the Church in their public pronouncements damages the Church. In his own diocese, and particularly standing within his own cathedral, the bishop is the presence of the whole Church and therefore the presence of Christ for us. His authority and responsibility has been given him by Christ, so he is therefore responsible to Christ for us. He must exercise his authority with all gentleness, and he must lament his unworthiness, but he must exercise that authority, for when he does not lead, the Church suffers immediately. They have to beg him to love them and give them all that Christ has entrusted to him for their sake. ‘With the shepherd’s love they are to be merciful but with firmness, to minister discipline but with compassion.’ 3. The bishop prays The bishop leads the worship of the Church. He prays and intercedes for his people, and he leads their intercessions people, in public, in the eucharist. He stands between them and their sins, and he names their sins and repents of them on their behalf. The job of the bishop is to pray and to compose prayers, litanies, intercessions and hymns. He has to show us how to value the prayers and forms of worship that have been handed down to us. He is to teach his people to pray and worship, and He must test them, as a general tests the readiness of his troops, and the strength of their defences. When Christians push at the church to see how much transgression they can get accepted, the bishop must call them to account, and call their behaviour ‘sin’ or he leaves his people weakened. The bishop leads us in repentance. The church has to repent to the world for not passing on the full bread and correction. The bishop must repent of not passing on the whole gospel, and accuse himself of having withheld from them whatever aspect of the whole gospel that they seem to lack and be in denial about. Then he must give them all the elements of that form of churchmanship that they are most in denial about. He must not be afraid and he must gladly receive and suffer the punishment that the rebellious Christians mete out to him. The bishop is our first martyr. He is Christ suffering publicly before us. He will get a stoning from the world, and more terribly, from the Church. He has come here to die, before us, and in this he is the whole Church in miniature and an image of the Church before the world.
4. The bishop admonishes The bishop comes to each congregation with a gift, a word in season. He does not simply give each congregation a pat on the head, or adopt their particular brand of churchmanship for the day. A bishop is the trainer and disciplinarian, given to us by God to train and discipline us. He and his discipline is good news, central to the gospel and to our salvation. We are not left alone, but in Christ we are now to be shaped, moulded and loved, by the Church, the whole Church, the whole historical tradition and worldwide catholicity that is the body of Christ. This Church has authority over us for our sake, to bring us up and make Christians of us. The bishop must give discipline. In order to be able to do this he must be able to take it, and so he must be under the discipline of all his fellow bishops, and of the whole tradition of the Church. He must continually refer to the discipline he and we are all under, and show how much lighter it is than the insidious worldly burdens. We must tell them that they are the discipline of Christ for us. The bishop teaches his people the doctrine of the whole Church, and when the Church refuses any part of these gifts and disciplines, and sets out to found its faith on something less than the full deposit of faith, the bishop will exercise the discipline that will bring it back to obedience, and he will endure the suffering that this will involve. The love of bishop for people must be evident, and their love of him will grow because of it. 5. Praying for the bishop We need to give our bishop confidence and to allow them to serve us, and to do so can by leading us. We need to get our bishop out onto the steps of his cathedral, surrounded by priests, deacons and people. We need to bunch up behind the most public face of the Church, and to start to situate our public statements. We need to make all our public appearances and statements a clearly eucharistic and ecclesial. The bishop must end every public meeting and interview by praying for his city and pronouncing the blessing of God on it. In this way he can be seen to speak as the Church, giving, which means restating, the teaching of the Church, rather than as a individual giving a ‘view’. When the bishop speaks he must make it clear in word and that he is speaking from the Church, representing only what the whole Church says and has always said. We must ask our bishop to speak, pray and bless us and our city from the steps of his cathedral on festivals. He is the corporate and embodied ecclesial life, visible as one person, and for this reason he must always appear with his deacons and people around him. He must quote publicly from the worship and documents of the Church; he must issue Bishop’s Letters at the beginning of each season of the Church year and insist that they are read from all pulpits and studied by all house groups. 6. The bishop as Christ unrecognised When any Church celebrates the eucharist it must send some eucharistic bread, not consecrated, but blessed, round to every other church in the city,
and ask them to send us their blessing and encouragement from us. The bishop must go to every church of every denomination, and so to those who recognise his authority. It is his job to knock on the door of every church in his diocese, not only those churches which ostensibly recognise bishops because their structure is Anglican or Episcopalian. His job is much to knock on the doors of those churches which assure us that they are independent of all that hierarchy. He must go to every charismatic assembly and little house church. The bishop must offer himself to those who did not ask for him. The bishop should go primarily to those who do not seek him; he must say: Behold I stand and knock He must outside each Christian community until they relent and let him in. As he waits he is the image of the catholic Church. as he waits, in the street, he is the icon of Christ, the sign of unity of the whole church that is presently waiting for each of us in our assembly to let them in. He is the icon of the Church because the suffering and waiting of Christ is visible in him; when we see him we may see that it is we are making our Lord wait. The bishop must stand outside each Church and knock, offering himself to those who have not asked for him, and say: I came to those who did who did not call for me All day long have I held out my hands to this people. The bishop has get down onto his knees at that door and weep, while his choir behind him sing the psalms of lament. He has to repent to the pastor of that Church for failing to be his pastor. He has to repent to the people of that Church failing to protect them, which in London often means protecting them from the various ‘prosperity gospels’ that prey on some congregations. He must ask them to bless, encourage and to teach him, and he must bring back and share to the whole Church what he has learned from them. He has to beg their forgiveness for our separation and aloofness, and in our name he has to forgive them for separating themselves from us. He has to teach and correct them, warn them of the results of their separation, and he has to receive their teaching and correction, and together with them look forward to the day when we can celebrate together at last. Every eucharist looks forward to this and every exchange of the peace anticipates it. In our prayers in every eucharist we must mention the names of the churches in the borough, and across London, their pastors and for the gifts we pray that they receive from the Lord. The Church as the image of God We see the bishop, and stand around as the elders as Jesus and his disciples. This is the form given to us for all time. The whole body and thus all Christian people together are a single unity of priest. Only so is each Christian invested with the priesthood of the whole. The Church is constituted by the whole Christian people, gathered around their bishops, and their agreement demonstrates that the one and the many are one Church. The Church is the catholic body: all other communities are partial, and so not yet the whole truth. Our way into this truly universal communion is through the cross of Christ which removed all false universals from us. We may now know Christ only together with every single one of
those whom he brings with him. When Christ is all in all, all are all in all. This Church stands forever.
2 Hearing – Servants of the Word
The whole Christian community hears the Word of God. Communion involves persons who are different from one another; the preservation of the distinctiveness of the persons of this communion requires order and authority. The Church ordains some to this authority. They serve us by passing on what they have received from all previous generations of the saints. By pointing to those who are not yet present to this church our ministers prevent us from rushing into ahead without the rest of the worldwide or historic Church. 1. Word and sacrament The source of our theology is the worship of the Church itself. All our theology is commentary on what the Church sings. As the hymn puts it, Our fathers owned thy goodness and we their deeds record (NEH 479) Common Worship is the form of worship given to the contemporary Church. this form of service puts the words of God in the mouth of the whole congregation where they may dwell richly. The Revised Common Lectionary allows all churches hear the same Scripture on the same day and so to sing one song in response to that Scripture. For this reason the first documents of the Church are Common Worship, the Lectionary and the Hymn book or Worship song collection. The Word of God we hear week by week provides some of the narrative logic of the gospel. This week’s readings follow on in some respect from last week’s. The Lectionary ensures that we are not trapped within the choices made by our own clergy. We must hear all four readings (Old Testament, psalm, epistle and gospel), and the sermon must be brought into relation, so that the Church is given its position in the liturgical year and is thereby able to understand its progress on their pilgrimage. ‘Our fathers have declared unto us the noble works that thou didst in their days’ (CW 120) All meditation and contemplation is a long slow excogitation of Scriptures, a cud-chewing, that lets them sink into us. We never read the Scriptures alone. We read them with all our predecessors, and with the advantage of their experience. All the sanctified teachers of the church who have read these Scriptures before us are available to help us in this. We can seek their advice, and discover from them how the Church has read these Scriptures before us. If we do not go to the Fathers, from Augustine to Bonhoeffer, we will be reading Scripture through the untaught eyes of our contemporaries. Only the Church that perseveres in this long apprenticeship can read Scripture. Our fathers held the faith received By saints declared, by saints believed By saints in death defended (NEH 479)
In the sermon and in all other occasions of Christian teaching we practise our expression of our faith. This faith articulates itself: it obliges us to find its proper articulation; through this faith we articulate who man is and therefore who we are, this particular community that speaks about God. All Christian teaching and training serves the Church. Christian teaching should be brought back into Church and take place directly before the altar, and thus under the Scripture, the cross, cup and paten. Scripture tells us what is in that eucharistic bread and cup. All the elements of the eucharist are to be found in our contemporary church and worship. Our problem is only that they are only poorly connected. If we let the Scripture that we hear through the liturgical year inform us, we will gather confidence in the intellectual robustness of the teaching on the eucharist and the work of Christ in atonement and in all the doctrine of the Church that has been passed down to us. We need to bear the fragments we have up to the altar where they can be restored and become that single loaf and holy cup. Clergy and lay Christ serves us. It is the sole job of every minister of the to say this. Christ serves all men, but he serves his body especially in that he reveals this fact to us. The distinction between the Church and the world is an earnest of the resurrection. It is our job to keep that distinction clear. The Church does not serve society by making out that there is no difference between Church and society. Ministers who reduce this distinctiveness are looking to other sources to find the identity of the Church: no permission for the Church’s gospel can be asked or given by the world. The laity are secular, for they are out ‘in the world’. Their ministers serve them by freeing them for service of the world. The clergy do so by telling them who they are, and letting them discover the depths of this new identity through all the practices of discipleship. They are like those attendants in expensive health clubs that hand you your towel as you emerge from the pool. As our people come into church, through the cleansing water that flows from the font, their ministers help them as they confess and be rid of all the accumulated detritus of the week, or possibly of years. They give them the aid they need in order to let go to the sin that has stuck to them, which they believe has become so deeply part of them that it couldn’t be separated from them. When they gather on Sunday morning, their servants mop their brows, and like a wrestler’s seconds, tell them that they are doing well and that Christ has served them and will serve them to the end and beyond, and tell them they are holy and being redeemed. The laity are out and about in the world all week long. They come to Church to recover the holiness that is promised to them, not only for their sake but also for the sake of the world to whom they are sent. The clergy must not tell their congregations that they are too ‘religious’, and they themselves must not attempt to be ‘out in the world’, as though the world were some mark of greater authenticity.
2. Ministers of Word and Sacrament The Church is given ministers. They are educated, disciplined and then ordained to open the Scripture and to administer the sacraments to us. They are to ‘unfold the Scriptures, to preach the word in season and out of season, and to declare the mighty acts of God’. They are to lead us in prayer, and have promised that they be ‘diligent in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture, and in all studies that will deepen their faith and fit them to bear witness to the truth of the gospel.’ Our ministers are ordained to ‘lead God’s people in the offering of praise and the proclamation of the gospel.’ They are to ‘sustain the community of the faithful by the ministry of word and sacrament that we all may grow into the fullness of Christ and be a living sacrifice acceptable to God’. They will ‘lead Christ’s people in proclaiming his glorious gospel, so that the good news of salvation may be heard in every place.’ They have vowed to do this ‘by the help of God’. God has undertaken this for us, and these ministers are the form in which he has promised to do so. Our ministers lead us in prayer and worship and teach us how to pray and worship, and they also teach us what prayer and worship are. they have to be able to say: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you (I Corinthians). First we pray and worship together, and then, they teach us what it is that we are involved in. They teach us about the God whom we worship and about ourselves as the creature who may worship him: theology follows worship and serves worship. For this reason ministerial training must start in the cathedral. Clergy should be trained by becoming part of the cathedral deacons and choir, and taught to sing the psalms off my heart and to recite tracts of Scripture from memory. As clergy training takes place in the cathedral it is publicly accountable; the congregation can hear and decide whether it is going to be well-served through the training given to its ministers. Every member of the clergy must be a canon of the cathedral, obliged to worship and to preach there and so be tested and affirmed in public session by the gathered Church. The tradition is a stockpile of resources for sustaining the Church. It is the know-how developed by the whole Church over a long period of time. These resources have been developed to protect the whole body. The clergy learn these ‘so that the people committed to their charge may be defended against error and flourish in the faith.’ The minister will pass on the pastoral letters of the bishop and synod along with the whole teaching of the Church. The minister will point out to each congregation that they the being made holy and distinct from the world. He will use all the hymnody and prayers of the Church, and the iconography of the buildings to teach them the priestly identity and vocation of the Church. He will teach us our place in the Christian body and its public pilgrimage through the world and teach us our prayers so that we can say them off by heart. The priest will introduce his congregation to the saints of Church who preceded us. He will visit the house of every parishioner, pray and bless it and bring an image of the saint of that Church to
be displayed in that home. The Church must honour its own recent teachers, by naming them in our intercessions, teaching us their story and having pictures of them in church. When speaking to outside the Church the clergy must declare that they can only say what the whole Church says, and than refer to the worship, liturgy and documents of the whole catholic Church. The ordained Christian life is one of study that prepares us for witness and enables to identify and confront those oppressive behaviour and constructions and protect those who cannot protect themselves. These are the privileges of those Christians ordained to the public service of the Church, and who may sing: I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim; the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour; the service of the seraphim; confessors' faith, apostles' word, the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls; all good deeds done unto the Lord, and purity of virgin souls (St Patrick: Alexander) 3. The deposit of faith and the education of the Church The teaching of the Church is the teaching of Christ. Christ is our teacher, and is he also what he teaches us: in knowledge of him we find true knowledge of ourselves. This teaching is the ‘Word of truth’ and the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ (Ephesians 6) and it lightens our darkness. Tradition is the ‘deposit of faith’ that has been handed on to us. If we do not pass it on, it is then the coin that we bury in the ground (Matthew, Luke) because we assume that God is an uncaring master, unmoved by whether we live or die, so unconcerned by whether we receive what is good or not. If we bury this truth, we bury the hopes of those who might expect to receive this faith from us and with it their own identity and salvation. The clergy must honour the whole Church and receive their gospel from it. They must do so in the face of that other Body-dividing ‘theology’ that contrasts charisma to institution and promotes activism over worship, aesthetics over mission, or individual spirituality over the given and ‘established’ institutional forms of our ecclesial life. Such a ‘theology’ sees the Church as old and the Spirit as new and future. It assumes that we always have to give up whatever it identifies as established or old, as though all previous human life were a failed experiment. But the past and the future may not be pulled apart in this way, for the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead also holds all communities, of the past and of the future, together. The ‘secular’ account of freedom, as freedom from our past, represents a false Exodus. Our Christian history is not our problem but the means through which help will come. The Church that attempts to re-invent itself by slicing away parts of its own tradition in the hope of finding some new and more acceptable point of contact with society, will betray that society utterly. We may not attempt to cut short our trek around the wilderness, or we will re-enter Egypt. Only when we are content to be led by God around the wilderness
without limit, forever, will the wilderness start to give way to the promised land, and this will be because we have changed. When we are holy, every wilderness will be the garden of God to us. We are saved for the service that is perfect freedom. There is no freedom without love and communion, and the secular belief that we can have one without the other is a new form of bondage. The Church encourages our society to examine what previous generations have given us. Then we may come to realise that they also faced the issues we face. Thus we realise that the issues that are new to us, are not new to the Church at all, and thus our panic before them is unnecessary. We can then shed our patronising and arrogance, but also self-impoverishing assumption that we have reached some summit of human achievement. If we find this humility to listen to all previous generations of the Church we may realise much that is regarded as modern amounts a wilful tunnel vision, and an ideology that justifies it. ‘Modernity’ feeds on the imaginary incubus of the past only because it is afraid of what is unknown to it. None of the experience that we associate with the contemporary church is not new. God is always consistent, and his past act and his present and future acts all intend to unite us with previous and future generations as one people, and people no longer divided by time. To this end we need to learn the virtue of patience and suffering and intellectual discipleship. We need to go to school with previous generations and to be taught by them. Through centuries of debate, the Church has developed a theology of the gathered community and of the growth of the individual Christian. The Church is the body of Christ’s people. They are given to us love, so with must love them and we must concede that we love the Church. We must surrender all desire to place ourselves above the Church, that is, above the people of the Church. 4. ‘Other gospels’ The gospel always offered in the face of alternative ‘gospels’. The gospel gives us our freedom to go beyond the law, supersede all authority and exalt the marginalised. But these are integral to the gospel. But when these parts of the gospel are promoted above the gospel as a whole, they become autonomous principles, they cease to be the gospel and start to become antigospels. The Church must always turn away from these parts and point towards the whole. Equality as a principle is no substitute for the gospel. The dignity of every human being, is not the same thing as the equality of every him being. The Church teaches that our proper value is secured by proper order and authority, and therefore also by a proper difference. We identify and ordain ministers so that they are clearly not the same as all the rest of us, so the Church must insist that there must indeed be hierarchy, excellence and ‘elitism’. For that reason it ordains one Christian over others. It insists that there are gifts and virtues which we do not yet have, but which we must seek and in hope look forward to. It is only the elevation of one ordained minister
that allows the rest of us to be a single body, made so by the mutual subordination in love by which we are able to become servants of one another and in this sense ‘equal’ to one another. The accusation that the Church is sinful may not become the motive of our gospel. Our conviction that the Church has been corrupt, hypocritical or distorted by structures or power allows us to justify our own sense of superiority over Christians of all previous ages. This unexamined and unevangelical assumption divides the indivisible Church into progressives and those they identify as obstacles to progress: then the progressive movement believes that at any age previous to ours that the Church was corrupted by political power of ‘Christendom’ and its witness lost. The belief that the hierarchy of the Church is an unnecessary imposition, which prevails across the church and up its hierarchy, is disguised form of hated of the body of Christ. We could call it self-hatred, except that as it is directed against the whole body, it most effects those least able to stand it. The first temptation for clergy is to feel disdain for the Church, both in the persons of the laity and in the form of their own senior clergy. Thus the whole Church suffers a crisis of morale, self-doubt, even self-hate. The Church is the collection of people of whom it is made up. We may not distance ourselves from them or from the institutional forms in which they appear. In all its marred and ambiguous state we must receive them as our Lord. Spiritualization that is indistinguishable from a private and interior faith hurts the Church: the clergy must honour the actual people in their totality as the body of Christ. So we pray: Lord Jesus you heal the wounds of sin and division, jealousy and bitterness On us Christ have mercy The Church has to affirm whatever is good within the secular liturgy and it has to indicate the source and limits of that secular liturgy. Some in the public square are attempting to push the teaching of the Church into the private sphere, into the discourse of ‘values’ or ‘communities’, sure that they have nothing to learn from us. They are afraid that we represent constraints on that square, and they are right. For we insist that the freedom of man is given by God, and the society that understands freedom only in terms of flight from service is in trouble, for only society can remain healthy only when it hears the Church and receives its service. They more they succeed in ruling the contribution of the Church out of the public sphere, the more impoverished our society will become. Such an ideologically-conceived secular sphere understands freedom as freedom from other people, freedom without communion, without love, suffering or mutual subordination. The public political discourse that is all about freeing us from the past, is therefore an asocial and destructive discourse. In the long term freedom cannot mean freedom from service, but only freedom to serve. 5. Church and university The Church has a large account of man. It teaches that man is good. Only the Christian gospel says, through thick and thin, without hesitation that man is good, that man is the creature of God, is called and that all men are all the creatures of God, and the gifts that God has given to us. And the Church teaches that man is not yet what he will be, that he holds out against other
men who are given to him and who alone constitute his future, and that he is recalcitrant and so becomes his own enemy, and that he is therefore in need of the salvation that will bring him into communion with God and with his fellow man. The Church asks the question of man and expresses it wonder at him. What is man, that you should be mindful of him; the son of man, that you should seek him out? (psalm 8). The worship of the Church taught man to wonder and to explore all relationships of God and man and creation that this worship taught him. In the course of voicing creation’s praise the worshipping community reflected on the creation that was said to praise God. After their worship, and as a result of it, the worshippers and wonderers came together in a body to explore and debate this creation. This wonder brought into being great project of enquiry which we now call the university. Over the generations the worshippers and wonderers who gathered together in this way as the university, began to specialise in particular forms and departments of knowledge. The clergy became academics. In time their particular concerns became autonomous sciences. The Church was the body informed by this wonder, and acknowledged as the source of all science. The sparks that flew from the Church created the university. For a long time the Church held its vast view of man together. But little by little it let this unified view lapse into a separate accounts and separate sciences. It ceased to set out its vast view of man as this united creature that we should wonder at. And as it ceased to hear the Church, the university ceased to be informed by wonder and it ceased to regard man both as a being in creation, and then ceased to regard man as a unitary being with his own dignity. It no longer asked ‘what is man, that you should be mindful of him?’ With little or no relationship to worship and wonder, the university identified distinct areas of enquiry, and walls appeared between them. It separated the relationship of God and man that we term ‘worship’, from the relationship of man and man that we term ‘ethics’ and ‘politics’. And it separated the relationship of man and world that we term ‘technology’ and ‘economics’, from knowledge of the world, now termed simply ‘science’. Christian worship held these concerns together, but taken away from that worship, that became separate fields The Church reduced its interest to christology without anthropology, atonement and ethics. Christ was no longer worshipped as the true man and truth of mankind and guarantor of the dignity of man: in Christ God had visited man, but then returned to a deistic distance from him. The Church delegated the doctrine of creation to the university so that this ceased to be a doctrine and became knowledge without reference to wonder, and so without reference to its own limits or purpose. The Church acquiesced in muchreduced definition of religion as the discourse of the inner world of the individual, and gave up talking about man in creation.
Once the sparks that came from wonder at man and creation flew from the Church to create the university. Now the occasional spark flew back from the university to the Church. Each bright insight was part of a now-fractured vision of man as creature of God. But since they were not reconnected to the Church’s understanding of man as worshipper of God, these insights were not recognised by the Church as its own returning insights. Each briefly started a fire in the Church, before burning out, each leaving a hole in the fabric of its teaching. When it is not recognised that it is God who receives man as a unity, and thus that his unity comes from outside him, man’s integrity and identity became an open field for attempts to secure them by his own scientific and technological efforts. When technologisation becomes the measure of all wonder, the integrity and identity of man is lost, and man is disintegrated into distinct issues and problems for which separate ‘social sciences’ identify a technological solution that further robs him of his dignity. For then man is not treated as chief wonder of God, and all wonder and freedom are then an embarrassment. Now the university has not only forgotten that the Church is the source of wonder, and therefore the source of all enquiry. For the lost view of man there are technological compensations. But it is more resolutely determined that the Church may contribute nothing. Christian theology reminds the Humanities what they are about. The humanities are indignant about theology. The humanities no longer have an agenda of their own, and so they have reason to resent theology. Their own agenda is to pursue the chimera of equality into increasingly illiberal consequences, and consequently they feel intellectually vulnerable. Theology knows what it is doing: it has an agenda that is intrinsic to it. This absence of any positive definition of what has to be learned paradoxically now forms the centre of the modern university. The institution now dedicated to paideia is reluctant to tolerate any particular definition of it. Humanities departments attempt to demonstrate that all definitions of humanity are one and the same, that though individually they claim to be distinct, and though they claim to take us somewhere which is different from here, they are all nothing but various interestingly idiosyncratic descriptions of our own present position. There is no future, or no future that is not just more of the same. The Humanities department of the university insists that we may not claim to know anything that everybody does not already know and have. At the centre of education is the total evacuation of education, and envy and resentment is its driving force. These new educationalists want to say that ‘there is no right answer’, or ‘there is no master story’, and so remove from the debate the means by which we can discuss and assess their claims. By insisting that the debate is completely open and anyone can believe everything and not be corrected, they close down debate. If the Church lets it, the university usurps the place of the church and becomes a false ‘church’ and a new totalitarianism.
6. The Church stands for man Man is the wonder of God and appointed by God to be the chief wonderer at all God does. But man is sleeping. He must be roused to see and wonder at all that is around him. When man does not watch and wonder all creation is in deadly danger. But the Church has not wondered or roused man to wonder, and now the Church is dozing too. The Church must wake, and ‘watch and pray’. It must hear the Lord’s rebuke, ‘Could you not watch with me one hour?’ The Church has to overcome its distrust of the tradition it has received. The world around it assumes that the issues that face us are new and have never been met before and the Church is always under pressure to make the same assumption. Though it is tempting to look around for an entirely new solution, but nothing is entirely new. The Church has to remember how many times we have faced them before. We have to know our own history, and to learn from the saints and teachers of the Church. The Church must know how to pray and lament and speak to God for the world. And she has to wonder at how God-forsaken the world is, and she has to protest about it and wonder why God leaves us in this state. So by generations of begging and wondering she may perhaps beg her birthright back. Then we have to sing about the Church: with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed, by schism rent asunder by heresies distressed (NEH 484). So the Church presently suffers another form of ‘clergy’, those for whom the university, without any conception of man as creature of God, is canonical. This means that we are subject to another class of ‘clergy’, not informed by wonder, the apparatchiks who lead the technologisation of man’s relation to man and attempt to mediate between us and ourselves. But these ‘clergy’ are not the clergy of the Church, but the ideologues of other systems. The Church undergoes periodic convulsions in order to rid itself of these. The Reformation was the most painful of these episodes, in which layers of ‘practitioners’ and ‘experts’ were cut out of the Christian body. The Church always has to recover the truth that our lives cannot be parcelled up and delegated to such mediators. Every Christian and all Christians together are commissioned to wonder and pray and so to be the body of Christ. This body is indivisible. No functions can be delegated away from the individual Christian, because Christ is not divided and cannot be divided. All the offices of Christ and gifts of the Spirit are exercised by the whole body and every member of it. The clergy that lives from the Scripture and tradition of the Church holds out the truth of man. We celebrate this truth and hold the prospect and hope of this man. The university, having given up on unitary discourse about man, can only break man up into smaller pieces, to examine each with detachment and incomprehension compensated for by technological interventions. But what the university and the humanities have broken up, the Church unites and holds together. So it is the Church that is the guardian of the unity and integrity of man.
The Church cannot defer to the university for its view of man. The clergy cannot let the university be the criterion of its knowledge or the exclusive guard of the resources of the Church’s memory and identity. Only the worship of the whole Church gives our ministers the gospel message. The Church must recover its confidence in its own teaching, and be content to let the university go its own way. The Church does not need the approval of the university, and Church’s teaching needs no certification from the Department of State for Education. To recover its own teaching the Church must cease to defer to the state on education. 7. The confident Church The Church must hear the Word of God and so it must insist that it receives obedient ministers of the Word. We have to intercede with our clergy and beg them to take our needs seriously. Let us remind them in our prayers that they are appointed to pass this Word on to us and need no extra permission to do this. Let us encourage them to lead and teach and train us in the whole discipleship of Christ. The clergy that looks over their shoulder to a liberal and secularist elite in university, media and government, will be ashamed of the church and want to play down its own priestly and leadership role. The retreat from the truth of the given teaching and simple confidence in our ability to speak truly, and a consequence retreat into relativism, unreason and the discourse of powerplay is the result. By refusing to use the language of truth and authority the clergy take away the language by which we can appeal to them, or to God. If they do not open the Scripture and share out Christ there is nothing beyond their own sensibility and aesthetic in the cup they offer. For letting ourselves be drawn away from you by temptations in the world about us Father, forgive us, save us and help us The Church must bear its leaders. Some part of the Church is always angry at the Church: sometimes this is even a prophetic and so righteous and necessary anger. The Protestant churches and ‘low’ churches, those who call for disestablishment, the ‘emergent’ and fresh expressions are all movements to call the Church to repentance and renewal. But these prophets are to withdraw only for a time, and then to be re-united and so to love and serve the Church and honour it as the Body of Christ, the little ones for whom Christ was crucified. Our anger will not help us: we have to get rid of it first of all. Through discipleship, each of us purified of our aggression and turned outwards towards others, so the Christian is transformed from one degree of Christ-likeness to another, from partial to whole and perfect, and so made a catholic person, in relationship that is unconfined. We must give our clergy the affirmation, and surround them with the clamour of our prayers. Let us raise our voices to make them louder and gladder, and more desperate and importunate, than all these other voices which they consider to be more sophisticated. We must encourage them not to be afraid of ridicule. For having left our leaders exposed to the derision of the world, the whole Christian people must repent. And sing: And we, shall we be faithless?
Shall hearts fail, hands hang down? (NEH 479) Indivisible eucharist – Secularity is sourced from that cup The Church is the source of intellectual renewal. The Christian Church passes on the whole indivisible loaf of God: it must not give us less than this loaf. It cannot break the gospel down into more accessible ethics and more difficult religious or spiritual portions, or into academic and intellectual functions. All knowledge and all wonder come from that eucharist. Wonder is in part the public acknowledgement of the limits of our knowledge, and thus of the fact that we do not know, and thus no working-party, research grant or newfounded institute is going to tell us, that is, to translate into knowledge, what is given to us as wonder. The people of God cannot and do not delegate their gifts in this manner. They pass them on, but they do not give them away so that they are no longer exercised by the Church. The impulse to delegate is precisely the impulse to create new ranks of mediators and agents who deal with certain responsibilities for us and thus remove them from us. The worship of the Church cannot be devolved into ethics and separate ‘campaigns’ identified with fair trade, poverty, green issues, for the eucharist then appears to be of merely ‘spiritual’ or sentimental or aesthetic significance, as though that cup were empty. But the Church is the only body that holds together the unity of man in Christ and thus holds the unity and coherence (and thus the meaning) of all these otherwise separate issues. The whole unity of man, the whole identity and mystery of man is in that cup and in that eucharist, and it has always has to be received in the that eucharist and can never be taken away and separated from that eucharist. So we may pray: We give you thanks that your glory is revealed in all the saints. In their lives you have given us an example of faithfulness to Christ In their holiness we find encouragement and hope. In our communion with them we share the unity of your kingdom (CW)
3 Singing – The Church blesses
1. Blessing God blesses man and so affirms him as good. And God gives man this blessing to hold and to pass on, so that man can point to the affirmation of man by God. God blesses the world with man, and blesses man with the world. The Church is the form in which God blesses man. God brings man into communion, with him and with his fellowman. In man God brings the world into this communion, so God blesses the world by giving it the Church. Let us bless the Lord Thanks be to God The Church is brought into existence by the word and speech of God. It comes into being as it is spoken, that is, blessed. By speaking to it and blessing it God sustains the Church. He blesses the world by sustaining the Church and sustaining its true witness to this blessing. So we sing:
Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord; Sing his praise and exalt him forever. Bless the Lord all people on earth; sing his praise and exalt him forever (Benedicite – CW Canticles) God loves us truly. All the love that we express in the rival liturgy of our entertainment, and its songs, whether they are religious or everyday love songs, is just the merest shimmer of a reflection of this true love, of God, for us. So we bless the Lord. We look away from ourselves to him. In our worship we tell Christ that he is Lord, and that we are not. Christ tells us that we are his, and even that we are his body and thus that we are him for the world. By the Spirit the body is able to distinguish itself from the head and only so is it obediently the body of that head, while the head always unites the body to itself. The community that is receiving its redemption sings its acknowledgement and thanks. The world can see and hear this gathered community. It can listen and can either ignore it, or despise it and try to make it stops. Or it can sing along and find out for ourselves the truth of what it sings. It is for their sake that we sing: Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above, pray, and praise thee without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love (Wesley – Love Divine) The Church is the blessing of God to the society to which it is sent. The Church speaks by blessing and thanking. Thanksgiving is the mode in which Christians speak to one another. We thank God and we thank one another. We thank one another for each reprimand, each accusation, each lesson and reminder. We are served by Christ, and so we are well-served. Christ serves us because he decides to, and in all his service of us he is entirely free and never considers us as burdensome. This understanding that we are served by Christ and thus that we are amply provided for, is the basis of the Christian contribution to politics and the public square. The Church blesses
society by opening up a realm of public service.
Christ shares with us the self-control by which he is always free, even whilst he is our servant: he does not jostle for power as we do with one another. The assumption that, if God wields more power or responsibility we are left with less, is entirely untrue of God. God intends us to become like himself, selfcontrolled and so free to take our delight in one another and find service of one another its own reward. In his communion we are brought into relationships with all others and so may become catholic beings. Then we are free to receive and pass on the love and service, discipling and mutual correction, which is the form of his freedom. Thus members of the church serve one another.
The household of mutual service which the Church is, spills out beyond the Church to serve those outside it. Christians serve whoever is ready to receive their service: since they are bid to pray for people other than themselves, Christians are intrinsically representatives. The Church serves the world because not to offer guidance, correction or intervention when it seems to be required would be a lack of love. Such love comes as provision of care, protection and order, and explicit teaching about these. Long-term concern for justice, government and education, and public dialogue about them, is an outworking of the gospel, not an addition to it. The Church models good government, and so is witness to the society to which it is sent, and therefore also pastor to that society. Christian politics does not set out to grasp the levers of power, indeed we do not concede the there are levers of power in a mechanism in a neutral field. Rather real power is the exercise of service and ministry. Any society is healthy to the extent that its members are willing to live together in mutual service – that is to take orders and give orders. The service which the Church offers to anyone who will take it, is the extension of the self-government, that is the mutual subordination, of the Church which is the public form of Christ’s service of the world. We regard all public servants, civil servants and politicians as servants of Christ. Christ intends them to be good for us, and to help maintain the environment in which we can live and grow up. Even the most self-serving and destructive political leaders are servants of Christ, and we should always address them as such. We thank our public servants for being self-controlled, for not attempting to take responsibility away from us and not rendering our own decisions redundant. We thank the media for its prophetic concern for public truth. We never make demands of government or criticize it. We do not lobby or campaign. We are not one interest group amongst others, clamouring for our rights. We bless, we do not curse. We always thank all our public servants for their service. We thank God for them, publicly. 2. Blessing as public service Christian worship issues in Christian service. So this worshipping community of the Church makes its subtle contribution to public service and the public square. It is the whole Church that keeps civil society honest by our worship. The Christian attitude to politics is defined by thanksgiving. The Christian definition of love that generates charity and social concern and all the welfare state that stems from it, all this wonder and love come from the worship that takes place in that worship. The Church indicates that the nation can be grateful for the political inheritances that it has received from previous generations. Their Christian discipleship has resulted in some civil and political habits from which we benefit. We do not need to regard all this as a false beginning and so have no need to tear up our social foundations. The Church can also suggest for that it is not wise for any one generation to try to build new constitutional foundations. This is to abjure all our past as though it had been a mistake, to regard our predecessors with the opposite of gratitude and so to regard our political ‘system’ as discredited or exhausted.
Government is a set of forms within which we are able to make good judgments about public service and the public well-being. We are not building a system, for government cannot be a machine, with an entirely known set of inputs and outputs. We are persons, which means there are too many unknowns for any mechanistic or technological approach to be appropriate. No generation should set itself up to be arbiter of the forms for the next. We have no mandate to make far-reaching alterations. To assume total knowledge is to head for solutions that are totalitarian. A humble attitude to our political forms is a healthy attitude. The Church is clear about its source and limits of the secular liturgy. Some in the public square would like to push the contribution of the Church into the private sphere, into the discourse of ‘values’ or ‘communities’. They are afraid that we represent constraints on that square, and they are right. The Church insists that the freedom of man is given by God, and the society that understands freedom only in terms of flight from service is in trouble, while the society that hears the Church and receives its service will remain healthy. They attempt to push the contribution of the Church out of the public sphere. The more they do so, the more impoverished our society will become. In the long term freedom cannot mean freedom from one another, but only freedom for one another, and thus not freedom from service but for service. The new more ideologically secular sphere is in hock to the idol of ‘freedom’ conceived as freedom from other people, freedom without communion, mutual subordination or suffering and love. The secular liturgy has got stuck in one trope. This public discourse is all about freeing us from the past, and starting again. Freedom from the past means in effect from other people. The Church says that other people are not the problem and that the people who gave before us and created all the institutions that we have inherited are not the problem, and thus ‘the past’ is not the problem. It is the product of a short-memory which forgets the purposes of our national habits and institutions, and regularly reinventing what we already have and renaming existing institutions. The Church holds the secular liturgy up to question and affirms whatever it finds is good. The Church says that each particular human being is the most fundamental entity. He or she cannot be divided and they cannot devolve or delegate their individuality to another. Man without God doesn't know how to affirm this, with the result that we are tempted to devolve some of our individuality to the state and it tends to act as though it were the most fundamental entity. The Church is the defence against the state, defender of civil society, and thus of the state against itself. Civil society has its own authority: it does not exist because the state allows it to. Even when other institutions fail to remind us of this and it becomes a surprising thing to say, the Church continues to say that civil society and the judgment of individual exist before the state, and the state exists only for their service. We have seen that government has emerged out of the practices of the Church. But the Church is entirely distinct from government and state; it refuses to become absorbed into them. When the Church is the only voice
saying this, we can even say that that the Church is the last brake on the state, and thus that the independent existence of civil society is safeguarded by the Church. The Church insists on the priority of the truth, and on the testing our public discourse against the canon of the truth. 3. God propitiates and expiates man Christ sustains his body for the sake of the world. The Church can take the battering meted out to it by the world. We are well-served by a faithful servant by whose love our identity is already secured, and the Lord is this servant. Christ sings to us. Christ seeks us and woos us, and having found us, he calms us and treats our injuries. He removes the cause of our pain and distress. God is wooing us. He does so with a gift. He has come with the gift of ‘his only begotten Son’ (John 3.16). He sets his Son before the world. The Body of the Son is the view of the Son set everywhere before the world. Will the world be won over by it? The world can take the Son and so take this Body. It can receive it as the passage into communion with God, and so as the salvation open to the whole world. It can decide to be pleased by this gift and receive it and take it as its salvation. Or the world can decide to find this gift unpleasing, and decide not to receive God or his gift. It can decide that the Church is not an acceptable gift, and that it will not be propitiated by this body offered. God offers the body of Christ, the Church to the world and displays this body to world as its way into its salvation. The Church is broken open for the world and so sacrificed for it. God is wooing the world, and the body of Christ is the gift or bride-price by which the world is wooed. God is winning over the world by this patient offering and sacrifice of his Son. God propitiates man. We have seen that man reaches out and offers himself in all directions; and that when he does not identify the true God, or holds out against him, he directs his love elsewhere, and so gives himself away, constructing a world of substitutes and compensations, which we now call consumer culture. So our conversation and worship have to be re-directed and purified therefore. Christ directs all our offering to the Father and so purifies our prayer and self-offering so that the love of God that enters us purifies us of false loves. God expiates man, and so man is finally expiated. Christ purifies us: we suffer the passion of this purification that he gives us. The Church is made ready by Christ to be Christ for the world. Since this purification happens in public, the Church is continually humbled before the world. Christ performs this service and this liturgy before the world in order to show, through our body, that this body is the way open for the world. It is the way the world may go through into communion with God and so into its salvation. So we may sing: The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad; the Passover of gladness,
the Passover of God. From death to life eternal, from earth unto the sky, our Christ hath brought us over, with hymns of victory (John of Damascus, Neale) 4. Our reasonable sacrifice The Spirit exalts Christ for us. Christ speaks for us, supplies the words we need, and does so without limit and so forever. Christ makes his body his ‘living sacrifice’ because he enables it to participate in his ongoing worship. ‘Sacrifice’ means worship, by ‘living’ he means live and ongoing, uninterrupted. As St Augustine puts it: The one sole saviour of his body is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us, prays in us, and is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Accordingly we must recognise our voices in him, and his accents in ourselves. Psalm 85.1 (Augustine Expositions of the Psalms, Volume 2 trans. Maria Boulding, ed. John Rotelle (New York: New City Press 2000)). The Holy Spirit is inseparable from Christ. He glorifies Christ and is always with him. The Spirit glorifies him both by distinguishing him from all others, and by uniting all others to him as members of his body. Christ cannot be isolated or separated from the whole people of God, whom he regards as his own glory, and so we cannot know Jesus Christ (the one) without simultaneously acknowledging his community (the many). He cannot be known as Christ outside that body which the Holy Spirit sanctifies, or apart from its saints and teachers whom the Holy Spirit has pressed into our service. We can know Christ only through the life of the Church, its worship, sacraments, tradition, gifts and offices. The Spirit situates us ‘in Christ’. The same Spirit who makes Christ unassailable enables his invincibility to serve us with an infinite patience and gentleness. Christ is the fundamental particle and the particular person, in whom we may become particulars, persons whom can never be broken into any smaller constituents. Christ and the Spirit together are responsible not only for our unity, but also for all the distinctions that makes us different from one another. He differentiates us from one another, establishing us as unique and irreplaceable particulars, so each human being will become catholic, anointed with the whole plurality of Christ. Christ makes his people one indivisible whole, and the Church is this future whole, making itself present to us in time. God sends us instalments of this whole which make it publicly present within the world, in the form of the gathered communion of this people. God does not let the world come to rest until it comes together into the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God interrupts the world’s claim to be complete or self-sufficient, and the eucharist is the form that this interruption takes: it is the whole, making itself felt among the parts, preventing them from determining themselves as the whole, and inviting them to their much larger future.
We are that sacrifice that is burning. We are both burning away, outwardly being consumed, and burning and shining undying, forever. The Church is offered as a burning sacrifice to the world. It is being offered by God. We are on fire for him, and he is that fire: what does not belong to that fire is being painfully and publicly burned off. The world can see this process, that always looks like the destruction of the church. The world is at liberty to conclude that the sacrifice of the Church to God and is being refused, and thus that the Church is a bloody mess, in an agony which the world may wish to turn away from. But this fire comes down from heaven, and the smoke that rises from the Church in the form of our prayers rises to God who receives it and is pleased by it. The Church therefore is this column of fire and cloud that unites earth to heaven, and links this present part that we now, and which we refer to us as the present, to every other part, and therefore to what we can only call the future. Our God is a consuming fire who always consumes our sin away so that we endure forever. So we may sing: O Comforter draw near, within my heart appear and kindle it, thy holy fame bestowing. O let it freely burn till earthly passions turn to dust and ashes in its heat consuming. (Come down, O Love Divine) 5. In Christ the Spirit glorifies man The Holy Spirit holds this disparate and implausible community of the Church together as one body, united to its head. He has glorified man and crowned him with glory and honour in Christ. If the Church is evidence that the resurrection has commenced, in the resurrection of the one, Christ, and it points ahead to its completion in the resurrection of the many. Since nothing can stop the Spirit who raised him from raising us, Christ’s resurrection is promise and warning of our own. In each place that it meets, the Church is the evidence that Christ is drawing all men to himself, bringing each into connection with all. This future and final assembly makes itself present to the present world in this hidden form of the Church. In the eucharist each church intercedes for its own locality, speaking on its behalf to God. Each Christian prays for those members of his own family and society, past and present, and through these prayers they become present in this assembly: in Christ we are the presence of persons other than ourselves. The Spirit raises you from me, making you more than I can ever control. It is the Christians who offer this very high view of man and we do so publicly every time we meet. We do not just say these things, but we sing them. In the course of our worship they tell that we do not have to construct ourselves, and so do not have to be little gods. This is itself a huge relief. We are able to wonder at man and keep the question of our future open. As long as our society is peppered with Christians, it has people to point out that we do not have to construct ourselves. Instead we may receive one another from God
and thank him for the identity we receive through Christ, and which is demonstrated in the Church. 6. The Spirit frees us for each other The Spirit enables us to recognise one another. The Lord intends that we be free and his invitation to freedom is what the future is. If the future were fixed or necessary, it would not be future, but simply more of the present. No future can be foisted on us. We can only be said to be beings with a future if we become, and remain, free: we must be willing contributors to it, for our identity will not be decided without our collaboration. The future is the invitation Christ issues to us to share life with him and with all his people. If God were a universally manifest and inescapable fact it would make freedom impossible. So God withholds his glory, so that that it is mystery, revealed and known only in faith. In this faith we look for the resurrection that will make his body, and his glory, complete. But it is not enough that Christ gives us our identity, but we must also take it up. We do not have to take it up, but we may do so. Either way we are free – to take life, or not to. Our identity becomes truly our own as we love him and love his people as our own. We receive our life as we receive it from him, and receive it from him through all these sanctified people whom he has prepared for us. Christ does not regard himself as complete without us, so he waits for us; the saints and whole communion wait for us with him, and so we must also wait for each other. Our lives are therefore part of a process and a history, enabled by the Holy Spirit which, because we must all participate in it, unfolds through time. Waiting for other people is what time is for. In the prayers of the eucharist we ask God to give us all whom we are waiting for, along with all the grace to receive them, and so make this body complete. We mourn for those who are not yet present, for their absence means that we are not yet present as we want to be. The whole Christ, and our own very being, is waiting for them. Christ calls us and listens for us, and regardless of how long it takes, waits for each particular person to hear and answer in freedom. However deep we have been buried, he hears us, and can uncover and restore us. He is able to wrest us out of one another’s grasp, tell us apart from all other persons and confirm who we are. As creatures, we are divisible by time and so located by it, so we presently see the body of Christ strung out across time, like stragglers in a race, its unity is hidden. But time cannot ultimately divide this body: though events chafe away, they will never prevail against it, but only serve to purify this body until it is finally be revealed as holy. Because it is the communion of God, the Church will stand forever: now the mutual love of its members demonstrates its undefeated good order at every eucharist. The resurrection will bring us face to face with all men. The resurrection that raises us to God will also raise to them, and them to us, so that we will receive Christ together with all whom he brings with him. He now sends us all these people ahead of him to us, so we may receive him by learning to receive them. Our resurrection, imperceptibly underway since our baptism, consists in meeting these saints who already make up the glorified body of Jesus Christ.
The eucharist, which is the union of God with man taking place before us, is gathering us together and making us fully present and available to one another at last. So we are able to sing: There from care released The song of them that triumph The shout of them that feast; and they who with their leader Have conquered in the fight For ever and forever Are clad in the robes of white (St Bernard – Jerusalem the Golden) 7. The divine and the secular liturgy In its worship of God the Church examines itself. It asks what impact the worldly liturgy has had on the Church, which is to ask how far we have allowed our public witness to segue into the secular liturgy, and so whether we have domesticated Christ and so betrayed him. If we do not sing along with the first liturgy, that of Christ, it is because we are borne along by the second, the liturgy of the world that aims to get along without Christ. But we must also say that this second, secular, liturgy is entirely dependent on the divine liturgy. The world that wants to puts as much distance as itself and Christ as it can, can do so because Christ sustains its freedom to do so. Christ is the guarantor of the secular sphere, and of the freedom of man to do without him for as long as he can. The divine liturgy, which we experience as the worship of the Church, sustains the secular liturgy of all worldly voices. It is the Church that makes this distinction between church and secular. This distinction does not divide the Church from the world, but indicates Christ has made himself the servant of the whole world, and in him we may participate in this service. All the activity of the Church is just a particular expression of the liturgy of Christ, which cannot be separated from him. This action is his, and ours only in the Holy Spirit, who hides and glorifies Christ, and in him, hides and reveals us. He alone knows who we are and therefore what the end of all our activity is. This worship and liturgy generates all our public activity, so all Christian action flows out of his bottomless eucharistic cup. The Church understands that all the days of the week as ways in which the fullness of Sunday spells itself out to us. Sunday is too much to take all at once, so this day of resurrection spells itself out to us slowly, as Monday and Tuesday, the days in which we encounter and in which we learn to encounter the world through saints. This is the point of the distinction between Sunday and the days of the week, and between liturgy and secularity and between the ordained Christian withdrawn from the world and the lay given to the world in mission. The Church as image and art Everything going on in Church is about this movement which has gathered us, and everything that we sing is commentary on this movement. The liturgy of the Church is our communal body language of the church seen over the long term. We could see Christian worship as a great act of public theatre, a passion play, with the whole world is looking on. The image they give is of an entire people standing around their head, and standing with him, withstanding all storms, in eternity.
Every human being is the artwork of God, the imago dei, the very figure of God for us. When we are altogether assembled around Christ, it will become clear to all that humankind is this artwork. The images made by the Church are of that set of persons dedicated to our service, the sanctified Christians of previous generations, the saints. We defer to them and even love them, because they have been given to us to be our pattern, so that we may become that image ourselves. Religious art is bad when it fails to let our gaze pass through it to Christ and his saints. All the secular art derives from such kitsch. Just as all human doing and making derives from God’s work and service for us, so all human constructions are good as they allow themselves to be received with thanksgiving as gift and thus as art, and bad as they fail to do so. The secular liturgy and the labour and art of man are entirely dependent on the divine liturgy and the gift of God to man. Our songs are derived from the songs of Christ to man and our many loves are expressions of his one love for us. This true worship is simply the right way to live, and it cleanses us from all lesser ways. All popular song with its language of love, and even all secular music with its rage against form, are derived from the songs of the Church, and the songs of the Church reflect Christ’s love for us. The world that wants to puts as much distance as itself and Christ as it can, can do so because Christ sustains its freedom to do so. Christ is the guarantor of the secular sphere, and of the freedom of man to do without Christ for as long as he can. So we sing: Jesus Christ is risen today Alleluia Our triumphant holy day Alleluia Who did once upon the cross Alleluia Suffer to redeem our loss Alleluia (Common Praise 147)
4 Praying – The Passion of the Church
God gives the whole world to the Church. He brings the world to attention of the Church in order that Church should serve it and intercede for it. The people brought together by the Holy Spirit, by the power that we may glimpse in the resurrection, are empowered to be the intercessors for the world. They are made the path through which the world must go. Only those in whom the resurrection works can experience the passion. 1. Incarnation God loves us, and who tells us who we are and who we may be. So Christ prays for us and we are carried and sustained in existence by his prayer. Through the incarnation of Christ we can see this love of God in Christ’s serving us, and singing and praying for us. Our great high priest has spoken up for us and interceded for us since the beginning of time. The Son is faithful. He has prayed for us and his prayers are heard by God. His prayer for us has preceded us and sustains us. Thus the eucharistic prayer tell us that: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins,
to be our advocate in heaven, and to bring us to eternal life He has not simply spoken up to God on our behalf, but much more he has spoken up for us before all others who have run out of patience with us. Christ is interceding with all of us on behalf of those others of whom we are oblivious. He is asking us to speak and pray for them. This prayer of the Son is also directed to us, to persuade us to be merciful with each other, and to persuade our creditors and all those whom we have hurt to be forgiving of us. God does not need persuading to be patient with us, for it is he who is patient and who persuades all others to be similarly patient. The Son unceasingly addresses us and asks us to let other people go. He asks us to release those we have in our fear and rage taken into our grip. We have to release them to receive our own release, for otherwise we ourselves are blocked and immobilised by this grip in which we hold others. Christ also speaks up on our behalf, representing us, even to the people we have been exploiting and whom we have made our victims and he asks them to give us more time, and another chance to turn around. We must pass on the forgiveness that we ourselves have received. The Church looks forward. We look back to the incarnation in order to see forward to see Jesus and our own future with him. The communion of God spans past and future and brings all ages together into one. Christ makes man eternally and steadily incarnate to God. Christ is man with God, so that humanity is with God never without him. As he is man with God, so he is man with man, man as fellowship. In this holy communion he is entirely committed to us and ready to make himself entirely available and vulnerable to us. We celebrate the passion and death of Christ, because Christ’s death was the defeat of death and the death of death. Death took hold of Christ, but death did not survive the encounter. As a result all who are in communion with Christ will never have that relationship brought to an end. Christ is with us, without limit and without end. According to a canticle: So God saved us by his love and pity; he lifted us up and carried us through all the days of old. Man with God is the truth of man. Man is made for the society of God, that is, to be as free for God has God is free for him. We don’t discover the humanity and then the divinity, or discover the passion and then the resurrection. In baptism we receive the divinity and humanity together, inseparably. The resurrection that demonstrates the indissoluble union of the Son with the Spirit, makes itself known to us and is at work on us now. The resurrection comes to us, so slowly that we are unaware of it. It comes to us in the form of an undressing. The resurrection will infinitely slowly strip all the false relationships off us – that is, it will allow the wear and tear of the world to effect this stripping. We don’t want to be unclothed, says Saint Paul, but we look forward to being properly clothed at last. Putting on glory is inseparable from taking off sin. The removal of sin, and the pain we experience as this takes place. We experience the removal of sin as a passion. For us therefore the passion is the form the resurrection takes.
All humanity is present to Christ, so he is man with God. Yet we are not able to receive this full and complete incarnation, so he is not yet with us as he will be. In order to become properly incarnate to one another, and to him, we have a passion to undergo. What do we mean by ‘incarnation’ and ‘presence’? We are present and incarnate to one another. When we are in the same room I am bodily present and available to you as you are to me. But even when we are physically together I am only very deficiently available and present to you. Even when directly before you, I fail to receive all of what you want to communicate to me, I do not have the concentration to respond to you in anything like the way you would like. I do not honour or respect you as you should be honoured and I do not serve you as you should be served. I am afraid so I withhold myself from you, and do not let you become truly present to me, or let myself become truly present to you and so truly yours. Both inadvertently and deliberately we withhold ourselves from one another. Our human commonality is fallen flesh, a failure to be incarnate to one another. So how may we be truly present and available to one another? 2. Passion The way of Jesus Christ is the way in which we may become fully present and incarnate to one another. The way of Jesus is the passion. We call to mind his death on the cross. We need to say three things about the passion: its is ours first, and Christ’s second, and ours-in-Christ third. First, the passion is ours. The world suffers, we suffer and we inflict suffering on one another. The whole creation groans and travails (Romans 10). We are thumped and helplessly we thump back, repeating and passing on the sin and passion we experience. In this way we suffer our passion without understanding, and without hope of it ever coming to an end. We suffer pointlessly because we never come to our goal. The world is bleeding. The world that does not recognise Christ has no means of self-control and so it dissolves and leaches away. But Christ sees the world as his own, his own people and his own body; he identifies their suffering as his own. He regards this world has his: he identifies himself with it entirely. The world is body that belongs to Christ, and which pointless wounds itself and bleeds. The world does so because it does not yet recognise itself as Christ recognises it; it does not recognise him so it does not recognise itself as his, and so it does not recognise itself. We pray: In the midst of life we are in death… O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us from the bitter pain of eternal death. Secondly, Christ takes on this suffering and makes it his own. He becomes incarnate in the world: the whole incarnation is passion. In making man, one man among many, he took on all the mundane trials and experiences that we all go through. We learn through some of these experiences, but we fail to learn through others. But he learned through them all, and so through all the
experiences of being a human. He served the same apprenticeship we all do, but unlike the rest of us, he did not resent it, or try to escape or hurry thought it. He suffered it contently, as though entirely comfortable with it, as he would not mind if it never came to an end. He takes what all the rest of us lash out, receives what is inflicted on him but, unlike the rest of us, he does not pass this punishment on. There are the many ways in which seek to evade life in its fullness. We attempted to force him into the various forms of these, to make his peace through compromise with the dark forces. As he did not acknowledge these forces, our attempts did not succeed. So we attempted to deny him life altogether. But he bore what, in our distress and rage, we meted out to him. So we can say that Christ’s passion is the human passion, not evaded, not passed on, but taken and but suffered, well and fully to the goal. He is able to bear us, and entirely content and free as he does so. In this passion he took on the full fury of human anguish, and of the chaos and anger of the world, all directed at him and he withstood it, until it was solely and uniquely directed at him. And he did not buckle, but took it. So we sing: Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless look to thee for grace (Toplady) Our determination to take life away from him was outmatched by his ability to take the beating and stripping we gave him, and to grow up through it into the true form of man. He used our violence for his up-building. Since he suffered what we inflicted on him, purposefully and effectively, and arrived at the true form of humanity, this passion turns out to be entirely purposeful. According to the canticle from 1 Peter 2:
He committed no sin, no guile was found on his lips, when he was reviled, he did not revile in turn. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but he trusted in God who judges justly. Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness
So thirdly, in the body of Christ, and therefore inseparably with him, we are now able to undergo this passion that strips all false and partial relationships from us. We suffer the what the world inflicts on us. All the false relationships with which we have dressed ourselves up are to be taken away. The world strips us of them. Christ allows the world to do this to us, so that we lose everything that others cling onto. And then he clothes us again, in the garments that are invested with the whole indissoluble glory of the new creation, which is to say, of creation redeemed. Our passion is therefore inseparably his-and-ours together. What the world gives so violently, we are able by the Holy Spirit to receive purposefully. His presence changes our passion from pointless and exhausting, to purposeful and transformative. The Spirit directs our reception of this suffering so that we do not kick back and so pass the violence on; he now makes our suffering purposeful so that it forms us into those who now able to bring the world as a 164
whole into the communion of God. The body of Christ is the passage opened for the world through which it may proceed into its redemption. So we say: God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and given us a place with the saints in light Christ leads us through The crucifixion is the event of Christ walking through the whole gathered assembly of humankind, while we lash out at him. It is our blows raining down on him. This is the storm through which he walks. He is pummelled and battered, and this is what the crucifixion is. So we sing the hymn of Venantius Fortunatus:
God in pity saw man fallen Shamed and sunk in misery When he fell on death by tasting Fruit of the forbidden tree: Then another tree was chosen Which the world from death should free (Common Praise 121: Venantius Fortunatus; Deamer)
The Christ who is on the cross is us, as we wanted to be, that is without Christ. But being without Christ has proved to be an agony to us. Without God, we crucify one another and a whole society is put on the rack. Man wants to love and to be loved, but he also fears. He fears that he may perhaps not be loved, and he wants to remain in control, so be ready to withdraw from love. So it does not want receive the love of God, to which all love belongs and to whom all love returns. So man becomes a black hole that can suck in love and never give any out. So Christ can act as the black hole that can suck in all our hate, and never give any out again. Who will prevail, and who will collapse first? The cross is all the violence of the world distilled into one single moment, one event that is visible for us in this single view and image, of Jesus crucified. Christ is the fourth man who appears with them in the fire in Daniel. There is no place so appalling that God detaches man from himself and lets him go. The cross is therefore at once both things, the appalling misery and violence that holds man, and the glory of God, that even in all his misery, holds on to man, and sustains him. His covenant is irrevocable. All that we can destroy is created, so even if we attempt to destroy all creation, we cannot destroy the love that creates and sustains all creation and every created thing and every relationship in it. There is no place where evil will prevail and have the last word. We sing: This is the sign that Satan’s armies fear and angels veil their faces to revere.. Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore his sacred name (508)
3. The passion of Christ’s Body The cross is behind Christ, but it lies ahead for us. Our cross is not a repetition of his. Christ suffered alone, entirely without us, and indeed against us, since it was our aggression that he suffered. But in our passion we are not alone, but with him. Since he cannot be separated from the Spirit, and by the Spirit we cannot be separated from him, our passion will not end in our destruction. Because we are joined to him our passion will not unravel us entirely. It will release us from what does not belong to us, so that we are finally joined solely to him, and through him we will be properly joined to everyone. We will be raised. So we pray: Strengthen those who stand Comfort and help the faint-hearted; Raise up the fallen And finally beat down Satan under our feet Passion is how we start to experience the resurrection now. We experience it as passion until the whole number comes in and the body is complete. So we sing: Each new born soldier of the crucified bears on his brow the seal of him who died.. Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore his sacred name (508) Passion and Passover Our passage through life is our passage through the sea, which closes in, and towers over us, so that we do not see the way ahead or the sky over our heads. This storm is of all the ungoverned forces, social, political and natural forces. They rage around us, press in on us and try to push us out of composure and self-possession. As soon as we are pushed out of our composure and give in to that rage we become part of it. As psalm 124 puts it: If the Lord himself had not been on our side… they had swallowed us up quick, the waters had drowned us and the stream gone even over our soul. We must resist and absorb its buffeting without passing it on. We must remain holy, still and innocent. We sing: Make a way through the desert make a way through the storm make a way when they is no way my God will make a way (992) We are to go through this storm. Our entire Christian life is the action we have undergone in baptism: we go through the water. Our baptism is our passage through this sea, and this passage is what the whole course of lives. Our life is this long journey through this storm. The sea into which we are immersed in baptism rages, as all creation is disordered and frustrated. This is the disorder we inflict on Christ. This storm of disorder is also to go through us. We are to
drink it down and it will become still and obedient and through us find it proper order. We only go through the passage, through this narrow defile. And it is not only inanimate trouble that we have to go through. We have to go through the deliberate resistance of the world, and take the fury that other people now direct at us. We have make our way through them, and as they try to prevent us passing, run the gauntlet of them. The world attempts to stop us coming through with whatever thumps and kicks it can. The dark passage we go through is the world. So we sing: Come Christians follow where the captain trod, the king victorious, Christ the Son of God... And Israel’s host triumphant go Through the wave that drowns the foe (138) Christ takes us through our own passion, in which we are the enemies that rage against this sight and who attempt to snatch us out of this procession and drag us out of it. We have been the dark valley of enemies which the procession of God goes through; we have been hurling abuse at this procession. But as the end of it, rounded off by Christ himself, goes past, we are caught up by it and willingly attach ourselves to the end of it. Now we have become part of it, members of the procession of Christ that goes through the world attracting its rage but remaining untouched and unmoved by it. That is why we sing: There’s an army marching out in victory Overcomers through the cross of Calvary There’s an army raising a shout of praise (998) and The Lord is marching out like a mighty man of war (986) And from his mouth there comes a sound that shakes the earth and splits the ground and yet this voice is life to me the voice of Jesus (983) 4. The priesthood of the Church The whole Church is one intercessory and therefore priestly body. The Church prays and speaks up for the world. The world does not always celebrate with us; we pray for them and they rely on us to do this for them. The world delegates its own responsibility to the Church. The Church appears loaded with sin, its appearance apparently entirely compromised, but it is the sin of the world that the church carries, and is itself caught up in. Bearing ridicule is part of the priestly calling of the Church. The first and fundamental difference that God makes is the difference between this particular community, the Church, and the world. This difference is the one great gift, that that sources and renews all society and civil society. For this is the community with the greater and most sophisticated account of
man, man as called and therefore utterly restless, and yet as good even while he is lost and enraged, who is on his way to redemption and to something much bigger than he or anyone of us can contain in our imaginations. This difference is reaffirmed by the baptism of every Christian. The service of baptism hints that in baptism Christ pass through us, and against our resistance, for we are the disordered forces represented by water. When we refer to Christ bleeding we are referring to the people of Israel and the Christians whose lives have been lived in service of which we are the beneficiaries. This is particularly acute if we despise or persecute the saints, for this is to ‘crucify the Son of Man all over again’. They are martyrs for our sake. The Son reckons them his, and so he calls them his body and blood. He considers the labour of his body to be his labour. And their labour will be redeemed, whilst it may presently appear to be lost, so it will not ultimately be lost. All will be redeemed and all will come back to him. The agony of crucifixion is about the agony of the world. But because this agony is publicly taken on and undergone by Christ, this agony and selfrending of the world is stopped. So we sing: O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end Be thou ever near me, my master and my friend I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side Nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide (538 Newton) 5. The Church is the passage for the world Christ gives us a body. United with him, the Church is this body. In this one body he presents us with the many bodies of the sanctified, that is of those dedicated to our service. In this communion of saints, we become one person in Christ: ‘Though we are many, we are one body.’ The Church is the way that has opened to us. With Christ, directed and enabled by him, we may now open ourselves. His action in opening himself becomes the action in which we open ourselves. We may let the world enter him through us. The Church is the gate through which the world can enter Christ. The Lord commands the Church to break and distribute itself and make itself the opening that the world go through, so the Church suffers the world. The Church and the Church’s passion is the path along which the world must go. The world is saved by the service and passion of the Church, the body of Christ. the Church suffers because it takes whatever the world in its frenzy metes out. This generation of the people of God are the conduit through which this generation of the world may enter the communion of God. Thus it is the Church which is present, with Christ, in the eucharist. Christians pray for the world. It is to represent and vocalise all that the world presently is in its misery, and also all that it must become. The Church is to represent publicly and loudly the future of the world. The Church is a city on a hill. Its sentries are posted on its walls. They must challenge in every public assembly and arena and ask that the local authority is claiming too much for himself, or not providing enough cover. The watchman is ready to raise the alarm. God listens and waits for each particular individual to hear and answer.
He does not give up on us, he does not run out of time, he is not forced to rush or foreclose because time is short, for time is not short for God. He has the time we need. According to the canticle: We are heirs of God and fellowheirs with Christ; if we share his sufferings now we shall be glorified with him hereafter. These sufferings that we now endure are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed (41 Canticle of God's children) 6. Secularity – the distinction between the Church and the world The distinction between the Church and the world is an earnest of the resurrection. It is for the Church to keep that distinction clear. The Church does not serve society by making out that there is no difference between Church and society. It is the Church that makes this distinction between church and secular in the first place. It does not divide us from the world, but indicates Christ has made himself the servant of the whole world, and in him we may participate in this service. This is the point of the distinction between liturgy and secularity, between ordained and lay, and between Sunday and the days of the week. This worship and liturgy generates all our public and secular activity in the everyday world. All our activity is just a particular expression of the liturgy of Christ. Our activism is only ours, because it is first his. All our outreach is the work of the Holy Spirit who hides and glorifies Christ, and in him, hides and reveals us and hides and reveals our work. He alone knows who we are and therefore what the purpose of all our activity is. The Church does not understand the secular week to be not Sunday. It understands that all the days of the week are just ways in which the fullness of Sunday spells itself out to us. Sunday is too much to take all at once, so this day of resurrection spells itself out to us slowly, as Monday and Tuesday, the days in which we encounter – and in which we learn to encounter the world through saints. Only let us be faithful to the saints whom have been entrusted to us. There is a penumbra around the Church, which we call ‘civil society’ or secularity. Many birds find shade under the branches of this tree. When this secularity does not know its own source, in the patience of the Christian Church, it becomes an impatience, which we may call ‘secularism’, an ideological attempt to separate society from its source in the communion of God with man, given in the Church. But the Church is the one thing that prevents ideology, and which therefore prevents theocracy. Christianity is adamant that the fullness of time, eternity, is not yet. We may have no timeless direct rule from God. this faith insists that the rule of God is mediated to us through other persons, and thus there is a realm of interpretation, judgement and individual conscience to which we are all called. The Christian faith creates this penumbra and without the Christian faith and Church that civil society shrinks.
Jesus Christ is free, for God is free. He is so free, he is free even to do the things that we most associate with loss of freedom. Our Lord did not regard divinity as something that has to be clung on to, but taking the inconspicuous form of a servant, made himself nothing (Philippians 2). This servanthood and diaconate is for those who in Christ have had ‘all things given into their hands’. This weight of glory is ours. It releases us, so we not need to busy ourselves first with our own affairs before turning with whatever energy we have left, to help others. We do not need to look for glory or confirmation, for we have it, and we need never concern ourselves about it again. You have been forgiven. Just as your life is no longer yours to live alone, so your problems and your sin is not your own any longer. You are free to seek more and more of that forgiveness, and to do so with greater and great abandon, more and more publicly. You are free to confess your sins and to lead the rest of us in letting go of our own sins. You may be the most care-free of people. This means that you are free – for others. You are servants, waiters-at-table, fetchers and carriers. You will wait at hospital beds, anoint the dying, find words of comfort for the frightened and anguished. You will baptize and teach, you will hear confession, you will marry and bury. When we pray we do so with the whole Church. Each Christian church prays with many other congregations making up the whole church. In each worship service we are brought into communion with the whole worldwide and historic church. In each service we look forward to the future unity of all churches in Christ, and of all peoples in Christ. In the service we become aware that all the Christians around the world are offering their prayers to God. So we sing: Before thy throne we daily meet and as joint-petitioners to thee in spirit each the other greet and shall again the other see (Baxter NEH 371) 7. The risen one dwells with us Only the people made by the resurrection can experience and suffer the passion to its end, become intercessors for the world, and acknowledge its redemption with worship and thanksgiving, with the whole company of earth and heaven. We are in relationships that are personal. We are brought into a communion of persons, and our participation in this communion thickens as we meet one person after another. These persons are given to us; because God has prepared them for us and dedicated them to us, we call them saints, that is, the sanctified. We come into relationship with all generations of the Church. We know that these sanctified Christians of different generations pray and that we pray, and we even pray for each other. We remember particular saints. We remember those honoured by the whole Church, like Mary, Peter, Paul. Occasionally, we remember those saints particular to us in Britain, like Augustine and Alban, and London like Dunstan. We remember those on both sides of the Reformation, some of whom met their deaths in London, in gaol or by execution.
We have to be the memory of all previous generations. We have to dig down well beyond the present experience of our society to recover the experience of earlier generations. We have to exercise this memory on behalf of the whole society to which we are witnesses. They went through bitter times, and they did so for us. It is because of their life and example and witness that there is a Church in this country. Our life in Christ is due to them. Christ entered the suffering that we inflict on one another and on ourselves. It is our suffering, not his, but he has come and made it his. He suffered the passion that we inflict on him, purposefully and effectively, and came through it. We are the apprenticeship he served. Its purpose has been fulfilled. Jesus Christ has graduated from the violent testing at our hands and has become the man with all men. He has ascended to this stature of man-with-all-men and so of man-with-God. As the canticle of 1 Peter 2 has it:
He committed no sin, no guile was found on his lips, when he was reviled, he did not revile in turn. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but he trusted in God who judges justly. Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
5. Eucharist – The Ascension of Man
In the eucharist we become present and real within the communion of God. We are enabled to be truly and steadily present to each other. The spiritual bread and meat from which all created growth and all created bread, meat and embodiedness comes, makes us more embodied and real and steadily available to each other. 1. Christ as priest and sacrifice Jesus worships the Father. Jesus prays and this prayer is the secret beneath everything else that is going on. In prayer Jesus is always with the Father, together and united, and so in good company, thus prayer means communion with God. Jesus and the Father are in an unending conversation. In the Church we are caught up into this conversation, as it is made audible to us in the prayer and liturgy which is the work of Christ. On the Christian account ‘sacrifice’ means worship. This worship is first the divine and eternal liturgy of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the prayer or even more simply the conversation that Son and Father have. They are holy, their communion and conversation are holy. Christ worships the Father, the Father adores the Son: their life is perfect and requires nothing beyond itself; it does not come into being, but always is in being. Christ speaks and prays to the Father and that their conversation is unbroken. They are united by the resurrection, or rather the resurrection is how this unbreakable communion makes itself felt within creation. We said that the Son presents us to the Father. He does so as though we, and all creation,
were integral to him. Christ raises us continually to God. And he will do so finally and as the Father receives us from him, our existence is affirmed. He presents us to the Father, and thus we are his holy gifts, his sacrifices, and the demonstration of his good stewardship. Christ is the eternal servant of mankind, entirely and inexhaustibly available for us. He does not get tired (psalm 121), or have to turn to his own concerns before turning to ours (Hebrews ). He does not merely give us the thing that we presently need and so provide a merely temporary relief; he does not fob us off with this or that – something that is not himself. He himself comes: he does not come and then go again, but comes and remains and dwells with us without limit, eternally. He is our provider, and is what he provides; he is priest and sacrifice, and he is so without limit and eternally. He washes us and heals us, continually on his knees at our feet, and carries out all the service of a slave. His love is inexhaustible, taking us to the end, that is to the Father. So: Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory, of His flesh the mystery sing; of the Blood, all price exceeding, shed by our immortal King, destined, for the world's redemption, from a noble womb to spring (Aquinas Pange lingua) The living sacrifice Christ is at work. His service of the Father includes service to us. He is the ever-living sacrifice, the servant (and shepherd) who serves and provides for his people, giving them without limit what is his to give, which is his own uninterrupted life and communion with God and with all creation. His eternity with the Father empowers his service and enables him to be the eternal servant of mankind, entirely and inexhaustibly available for us. He does not merely give us the thing that we presently need and so provide a merely temporary relief. He does not fob us off with anything that is not himself. He himself comes: he does not come and then go again, but comes, and remains and dwells with us without limit, eternally. He is our provider, and he is what he provides, the priest and the sacrifice. Christ calls, gathers and ushers all humanity along towards the Father, overcome those who want to take us in different directions, and bringing the whole human body together, so that no part is any longer at war with any other. He is able and prepared to mediate between each and all of us, through whom all other men are related and able to face one another and who brings all persons into communion and makes them incarnate and present to one another. Christ makes us holy and presents us as such, so we are his sacrifice. Christ its head sacrifices his body, by making it holy and presenting to the Father. We are the gift, Christ is the giver and God receives us from him. In all this the gift is a person, Christ, and many persons, all those whom Christ brings with him. Not only are the giver and receiver persons, but so is their gift and sacrifice. Christ is doing all the work.
When we say Christ suffers for us, or that he sacrifices himself for us, we are combining a number of statements together. The first is that it is we who are suffering; the second is that we suffer because we inflict suffering; third that Christ suffers us and refuses to pass on the suffering we inflict on him; fourth he does so in order that we may stop inflicting suffering; fifth that he suffers with us, so we no longer try to evade the transformation that may be effected through our being and suffering in his company. With him we may take our passion as the course of sanctification that will take us to maturity. With him, in his Spirit, we may persevere and endure it. When we refuse this suffering and apprenticeship that Christ offers to accompany us through, our life becomes a slow unravelling. When we follow him through this passion, its effect is to shape us and build us up until we are holy, and can then we can bear suffering without evading it or passing it on. We can say this because: God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead, The ransom that was paid to free us was not paid in silver or gold, But in the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb without spot or stain. (Canticle 48 A SONG OF FAITH 1 Peter 1) 2. Ascension and sanctification Man is glorified in Christ. He is the material being who comes into free relation with all material creation. All material creation is his body. And man becomes the whole man – Christ. Thus all material creation becomes the body of Christ. It is this body because Christ is its head. The head supplies life and form and substance to the body. And by this body (creation) and these bodies (of other people) we gain the life and substance and materiality to be present to each other and to recognise each other as the body of which Christ is the head. It is for us that Christ has this material body. He swathes himself in creation, for us. (psalm: he wraps the firmament around him as a cloak) In creation Christ God condescends and comes down to man. Christ make himself a thing – creation – a body and many things and provisions – for us. The human race contains within it the whole world: all things in the world will make up the body of Christ. So we are coming into being, and specifically into the holy being and holy communion of God. God makes his people holy. The very etymology of the word ‘sacrifice’ points us in this direction – sacri- (holy) ficere (to make). Sacrifice does not mean to kill or to give away, but to make holy. This Christian use of the term sacrifice is entirely different from the more usual account, in which it means a coerced exchange. Along with ‘sacrament’ and ‘sanctification’, ‘sacrifice’ refer to work of the persons of God in giving us and receiving us, and so making us holy and sustaining us in their communion. the Church sings: Author of life divine Who hast a table spread Furnished with mystic wine And everlasting bread Preserve the life thyself hast given And feed and train us up for heaven (Wesley)
Who and what is being made holy? We are being holy, and creation is being made holy, and in this Christian sense, we have to say that we are the sacrifice of God. To say more, we have to talk about our great high priest. But first, some more of a less dogmatic nature about becoming holy, or indeed becoming anything… God always intended come to man and stay with him, and that in the course of this coming, man would grow up and this process is delayed, but not halted, by our fear and rebellion. Irenaeus says that man begins as an infant and so an innocent, who is called up into maturity in God's communion; in order to grow, man has to undergo an apprenticeship. Christ is the one who has undergone this apprenticeship to the end and is now mature, the finished form of man. No part of God's creation is alien to Christ. it all responds to him and so is perfectly the redeemed creation which he regards as his own estate, and even as the form of his own presence for us. Presentation and offering Man is being brought up into life in the holy communion of God. Man is called and enabled to ascend into this communion, and this ascension is the whole narrative of God with man. Coming-into-communion with God is the way that we are in communion with God. We should use the term ‘ascension’ to cover the whole narrative of God with man, and sanctification is the mode in which we exist in this communion – in it we are always being made holy. The promised formation and transformation process, that I am calling the ascension of man to God, and the public demonstration-and-inspection process that accompanies it, that I am calling sanctification, are what sacrifice is about. We learn this from the Old Testament. Israel demonstrated with her temple sacrifices that God is forming and teaching his people. Within this process God invites his people to report back to him at intervals with samples of their husbandry, as evidence of their progress. Chief evidence of would be the health and moral maturity of the people themselves. The community of Israel brought animals to the temple for their God to inspect and pronounce good (or not), and thus to assess and agree on the progress of this sanctification. It is the whole people that is being made holy: the animals and the land are subordinately holy as they demonstrate and contribute to this process. In the course of practising and trying out these new faculties we are to present him with the products that are evidence of our learning. We are to send him gifts. What we have to send up from God’s inspection is ourselves. Yet we are not ready (holy) to go, so we send a representative and token of ourselves. We send someone else up, and send with them something that will bring us to mind for God. This must be something of ourselves, an item from our own household or estate, someone we have brought into being. We cannot send the work of another man. We cannot let anyone be our servants. We have been told to work with our own hands (1 Thessalonians 4.11). Since you are now a servant, you may not employ anyone to do your work for you. We cannot send anything with a representation of anyone else on it, such as the
image of Caesar on a coin. We cannot send any monetary token, but only our own product that will be truly a token of ourselves. 3. Giver and gift – the sacrifice as thing and as person In Christ God has given a person. In the course of our refusal to receive him, and we cut him off from life and so make him a mere thing. But God does not let him remain a thing, but raises him. Being a thing was something that Christ did for the brief three days of Easter in order to show us that we cannot succeed in turning the person given to us into a thing. Ultimately this gift will not remain mute and unresponsive, or give up on us and go away. It will not remain a thing, but reveal itself to be a living person – Christ. In order to come to us the shepherd came to us, without ceasing to be the shepherd he turned himself in the small and unthreatening figure of a lamb; we turned the lamb into a corpse, but in all this he remains the shepherd, the person, utterly unconstrained by our refusal of him. Our fear and hate does not diminish his love and patience or power. He does not cease to be this person. God cannot be made less than God. The person can become a thing for us without any loss of freedom, and so without being obliged to remain this thing and no more and so cease to be a person. If he does not set the indivisible unity of Christ with God prior to this breaking and passion, it looks as though we divide Christ, and thus as though we have demonstrated that Christ has no relationship to God, for God does not help him. If we are able to overcome Christ, he is powerless to help us. But we did not overcome Christ and we did not succeed in turning him finally into a corpse and a thing. He consented to suffer, so he is pierced, but only willingly, and not finally. The resurrection shows that the passion is free. We do not make him suffer, for he bears us in complete freedom. The passion is a function of the resurrection. What and whom? The central question here is what is sacrificed, to which the answer must be given in terms not of what but of whom. Two things have to be said. Christ is person and Christ is thing; he is giver and gift. The shepherd has become the lamb. The giver become the gift, the priest become the victim, but he has not thereby ceased to be the shepherd, giver, priest. The giver gives us gifts, and even is the gifts he gives, but does not cease to be himself. The gifts are fully him, but he is never exhausted by them. He can give himself away in gifts without end, but he cannot finally be given away and so lost. The shepherd is eternal and indestructible. In Christ God is given to man. But also in Christ man is really received by God: man is the gift and God takes it. So it is only good to have this person at your disposal because they do something for you, that is, that they can provide what is necessary at the right moment, thus the person is good when they come with the required gift – that is, if they can come up with whatever is needed in that moment. We need our daily bread. He gives us many bodies – all the materiality that sustains us in life, including all the animals we consume. But equally, although each gift is
good, it is good only in that moment. It lasts a day; tomorrow we will be as needy as before. Thus what we need is the regular supply and thus a supplier. We need both provision for today, and the supplier so we have the prospect of provision, and so a perspective, hope and future. It is only the existence of hope that makes anything we do today make sense. So we need a gift, for today, and we need the giver for the hope that gives purpose to today. We need the sacrifice and the priest. We need the body of the lamb and we need the shepherd. And what we have acquired, we cannot just keep it and stockpile it. For have to pass it on, either by giving it to others, or by giving it back to the Lord from whom we have received it. Christ’s materiality inexhaustibly supplies us with our materiality. In its worship Israel spelled out that the prayers of the righteous and the fertility of the land are in some if not causal then gracious relationship. We are not driven by fear to placate God with gifts, but rather God adores us, woos us and in everlasting patience serves us. God sacrifices to us. Christ is the one who serves us, without limit and forever, and thus he is irreducibly and eternal person, and this is covered by the conceptuality of priest and giver. But this giver also gives us his body. In case we found that too easy to get down he also gives us his blood. ‘Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you shall have no part in me’ (John 6). Left on its own this very gnomic statement is baffles and offends and turns many disciples away. The Christian is different from the pagan account of sacrifice What the Church means by sacrifice is not what is normally meant by that word. Normally sacrifice is a coerced exchange, an exchange in a finite economy, in which I have to offer you something if I want something from you. Without theological definition, sacrifice means a coerced exchange, in which something is given up in order to gain something else, or something killed so that other lives can be saved, or even that a life is the punishment and penalty sought as reparation by some power terrible enough to enforce such a demand. But when we address each other as Christians, we mean something entirely different, and we just have to explain, with reference to Scripture, what this is. We need a christological account of sacrifice informed by the whole evangelical narrative as this comes to us through the liturgical year. This requires that we discuss who receives this gift: at different moments in the evangelical narrative this is variously the world, the Church and God. Since this is Christian theology, it must always be theology of the Whole Christ, never Christ without us or us without Christ. This body is the many bodies and many persons of Christ’s Church. So we say: Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life, Lord Jesus come in glory 4. Dressed and clothed Man is being made holy and being dressed in glory. We expect the faces of those around us in the worship to shine. We see the bishop as the image of how we will be, redeemed and made glorious, and we see the priest who
stands in for the bishop in the same way. He shines with the glory that will be common to us all. This glory may only be apparent those who are themselves being transformed. We are being dressed in Christ, and thus dressed in the whole glorious company of Christ. Leviticus 16 tells us that this high priest shall come ‘into the holy place. He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and shall have the linen undergarments next to his body, fasten the linen sash, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy vestments. He shall bathe his body in water, and then put them on’. Christ now serves us by stripping and separating us from all that does not belong to us. Christ takes one set of clothes off to dress us in another. We sing: Yea angels tremble when they see How changed is our humanity For flesh hath purged what flesh hast stained And God the flesh of God hath reigned (NEH 128) Christ is dressed in all creation. How else should we, who are material, see him? We are material, and we can see and perceive whatever is material. Christ is dressed in material creation. The redeemed and glorified world will provide the body of Christ to us. The Lord will be dressed in all of us. He wears all creation – as a favour to us, so that we can see him, the total bodies and power of all creatures. He wears the totality of human being. If he did not wear human being and creation, how would we see him? Every theophany is God – with-man. God never shows himself as God without us, bare of us, raw. The human race contains within it the whole world. All things in the world will make up the body of Christ. Christ’s people embody creation. Each of the bodies which make us visible and present to one another, constituted of all the vegetable and animal bodies we consume, is itself a gathering of the material elements of creation. Each of us embodies a particular part of the earth, so creation lives in each human body. Creation lives in and through us, just as much as we live in it. We could even say that creation exists as the body of each member of Christ’s assembly. In Christ we are the ‘person’ of creation, the indivisible unity that preserves creation immune from time and death. In the eucharist, material creation is able to sing the praises of God and so participate through us in the freedom of God. Since Christ clothes himself with his people, in him all persons and all material creation are forever present with God. In his liturgy to God and service to man, Christ unites all creation with God. This work of bringing these many into one, is what is going on in the great eucharistic prayer of offering, the anaphora. For the benefit of world, the saints who are assembled behind Christ participate publicly in his office of raising and embodying the world to God. As Christ and his body speak for it and present it to God, creation’s divisions disappear, there is reconciliation between the social and the natural worlds, and so we are able to live with, rather than against, the order of creation. As the eucharist is the reconciliation of mind and body, intellect and materiality, so the Church is the union of nature in humanity and nature, and freedom come to creation. So we sing: Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail; Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, newer rites of grace prevail; faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble senses fail. (Aquinas Pange lingua) 5. Embodied prayer Christian worship is always embodied. There is a proper materiality to our sacrifice of thanks and praise. Christians who say that creation, and every creature embodied within it, is good. It is pagans who are not sure that creation and bodies are good. True worship and pure sacrifice, praise and thanksgiving starts in heaven, or rather, it is what heaven is. Heaven is reality at full tilt. Earth is that same reality slowed down a little for us. This divine liturgy prays but it does not pray any less truly, when it allows us to participate in it. Our praise and thanks does not become more crassly material and less rational or spiritual when it is accompanied by the action of our bodies in standing, kneeling, signing ourselves with the cross. We bring an offering and put it in the collection. There are many modes in which human bodies communicate. All our actions and relationships are embodied and our prayers are embodied prayers. We cannot be persons without bodies, for our bodies are forms of presence to others. It is for other people’s benefit that we have bodies, for only so can they find us and are able to address us. 6. Body and blood In the eucharist we pray: We thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of your Son. We hear from John: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you … he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him" (John 6.53-56). ‘Body’ and ‘blood’ are not self-explanatory: they are metonymies and we have to find synonyms for them. We do not replace the words ‘body’ and ‘blood’ with such synonyms, but simply use them in addition any time we are asked to explain what we mean. Let us look at these. In each case we find that they are metonymies of the resurrection as much as of the crucifixion. So we sing: Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature by His word to Flesh He turns; wine into His Blood He changes; what though sense no change discerns? Only be the heart in earnest, faith her lesson quickly learns (Aquinas Pange lingua) Christ is the bread of life, the single indivisible loaf which nothing in creation can divide. God has collected us from all corners of the world, and by his almighty power combined these fragments into this pure loaf. The loaf raised and displayed at the altar is the reconciliation of all things and so the first batch of the new creation. Then Christ, the loaf, breaks himself open for us and distributes himself to us. The indivisible loaf distributes himself to us, the indivisible shares himself out.
Since wheat is harvested and milled, bread represents something broken. So bread means unity as much as it means division and passion. ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him’ (John 6.53-56). ‘Eats’ (trogein) has the sense of munch or gnaw, grasp him with your hands, sink your teeth into him, and do not let him go. He has fastened us to himself so we may fasten ourselves to him and cling to him. This body appears to be this inert object, the eucharistic bread. But the bread is simply to direct our attention to the body of Christ that is present and the body of Christ that is still absent and to come. Its presence is not complete, but it points ahead to the future redemption, the eschaton, and so we have to confess this present absence. When the evangelical narrative is not spelled out, we are left gazing at this bread object and our attention is drawn away from the body of Christ and this priesthood of the Whole Christ, one-andmany. Christ is the bread of life, the single indivisible loaf which nothing in creation can divide. God has collected us from all corners of the world, and by his almighty power combined these fragments into this pure loaf. The loaf raised and displayed at the altar is the reconciliation of all things and so the first batch of the new creation. We sing: On the night of that Last Supper, seated with His chosen band, He the Pascal victim eating, first fulfils the Law's command; then as Food to His Apostles gives Himself with His own hand (Aquinas Pange lingua) We are offered the cup with the words: The blood of Christ, given for you. The indivisible and impassible Christ tells us that he bleeds when his people bleed. The saints who came before us poured their lives out to bring this gospel. Since they are Christ’s, he regards their blood as his. We are being lifted to God by the saints who came before us; they have worked for us and suffered to bring this gospel to us; built this Church, composed these hymns, taught us these scriptures, put up with our contempt. They passed Christ to us and we may say that they continue to lift us up to God and to be the service of Christ for us, even to have become Christ for us: blood is the passion of the body, and in this context ‘blood’ signifies the suffering and bleeding of that body. But the blood is also resurrection. When the Son enters the most holy place it is by his own blood, for the royal blood is in his veins, for he is a member of that family, of that household, the Son of the Father. We are made members of the household of God, brought into one circulation with him so his life courses from him to us and around our bodies locking us into one circulation and metabolism with him. Thus blood is victory, resurrection and unity quite as much as it is passion and division. The infinitely diffusible wine is the many, who are one, because the circulation of this blood makes this body one. ‘Blood’ means ‘of one blood’, so referring to
people who are members of one family: the same blood runs in their veins. Here we represent no loss of blood for him, and so no bleeding out into an uncontrolled damaging dissolution. So ‘blood’ refers to the Spirit who runs from Christ to his body, filling and animating that body, and running back from it to its head and source again holding us in a single circulation and metabolism with him. Here the wine is the blood as unity, not as loss or breach of unity or integrity. The bread and wine refer both to division and death, and they refer to Christ’s unity and resurrection. It indissoluble unity, with God in the Spirit, that makes it possible for him to give himself to us and so to suffer and to die in order to bring us into this communion in which we can never die. So we are able to pray: Unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever
6 Whole People – Glorified by God
Man will be transformed by communion with God. He will be man who is with God. He will be With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven. 1. The Church stands The Church stands now and it will to stand, forever. We are not waiting for something to begin, for we have already begun. We are waiting for all others to join us and so waiting for the Lord to bring the last of them with him. Until that time we stand, and watch and wait. We prepare ourselves constantly and so we remain prepared: we do stand down or go off duty. The Church will stand, and will never be overcome. It will out last all other kingdoms because it is established on the one sure foundation forever. On Mount Zion, the divine dwelling place, stands the city of the great king. In her palaces God has shown himself to be a sure refuge. As we had heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God: God has established her for ever (Psalm 48) In the Christian worship service we are watching the Lord at work. He holds courts in the great assembly that is made up of all creation. Around him is the a great cloud of witnesses. ‘A great multitude that no one could count.. fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God saying ‘Amen’… Who are these? These are those who have washed their garments in the blood of the lamb (Revelation canticle)–
The Church is that vast assembly made up of all the members of Christ, both those who for us are in the past and the future. They want us to join them and take up our places with them, and When the saints go marching in, I want to be in that number. This assembly, that is future to us, will make itself present to the present world in Christ and in the Spirit, all at once, at the judgment. In the incarnation we have a preview of this coming together of all things. And this future assembly makes itself present to us now, little by little, as his incarnation is continually set before us in every eucharist. This assembly includes the whole world, with all nations and all their leaders. All are present to judge and to give an account of themselves, and to witness the work of God. As the canticle puts it: Above you the Holy One arises, and above you God’s glory appears. The nations will come to your light, and kings to your dawning brightness 2. God raises his people God sustains and prepares his people. He brings us and all creation into being now makes us holy. He invests us with his undying life. We see Christ because he has taken on our created materiality, and we see him as him because it is his glorious life that redeems this materiality and makes it glorious. Thou within the veil has entered Thou on earth both priest and victim in the eucharistic feast.. (Chatterton Dix) We see Christ when he is ‘veiled’, that is, clothed in our materiality. He is ‘robed in flesh, our great High Priest’. God became present and incarnate to man in Jesus Christ. The purpose of this incarnation was that we be perfectly present and incarnate to him and to one another. As he comes to us, Christ brings all men with him, and when we can receive them all and can give thanks to him for them, the incarnation of all creation in Christ will be complete. We look forward to becoming properly present to one another and this is what our hope of the resurrection is. Jesus’ incarnation and passion are the work of his eternity, the eternity we know as the resurrection. His eternity, his inexhaustible economy, allows him to become present to us, and so present in time. And his eternity brings creation into being and so creates time just so we may come into communion with him, and receive his presence and receive one another from him. His divinity reveals his humanity, and reveal that his humanity is the truth of our humanity, so we will be human as he is already perfectly human. The eucharist is both the passion of Christ and the resurrection and ascension of Christ. But both passion and resurrection point forward to what is to come. The crucifixion is about the division and pain of the world, but it is also this pain brought to an end and this self-rending reversed, and man saved from this passion and redeemed through it. The resurrection of Jesus is how we gain some foretaste of our own resurrection, and so the eschaton. So the eucharist is both the passion of all mankind, and the resurrection and ascension of all mankind in Christ.
3. Christ is the truth of man Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. In him man becomes man-with-God, and in the communion of God each man becomes man-with-all men. Christ is all mankind, raised from the dead to eternal life in communion with God. He is therefore the whole colossal future of humankind, making itself gently present to us here and now so that we decide whether we will admit it and want to be part of it. It asks us whether we will allow it to come into being. Christ is risen and ascended with his whole people and glory. He is not available to us as the single individuated body of Christ. Joined to him, they are the body we refer to when talk about the presence of Christ: the body or presence of Christ refers to Christ accompanied by his whole people, and so to him as he is now inseparable from this glorious company. So we sing:
You are worthy, O Lamb, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign with you on earth
Yet the people of Christ are not yet complete. Since it is not complete, the presence of Christ is not yet complete, and so this presence is not yet apparent to us. It cannot be complete without us, without the full complement of his people and thus without the very last member of that Body. The most humble must take up their place in the body before Christ is all in all. If the most humble are left out this is a false and idolatrous ‘totality’, partial, and therefore not built to last. Only when the full number are in and the Body is complete, will Christ be everywhere publicly all in all. Then the kingdom will be complete, and the king of that kingdom will be recognisable even to us. We are accompanied by that very particular communion of persons sanctified for our sake. The Church is that gathering of particular persons made good – holy – for us. That they have been sanctified, means that they have been prepared for our service, to escort each of us through a lifelong series of encounters into a greater form of personhood. The future of man in Christ Man is a mystery that cannot be controlled. It is not just man’s present, defined by the limits of our imagination, but his future that God has at heart here. God is guardian of our freedom: he does not let us give it away. Man wrestles unceasingly with the question of his own identity. We have seen that man wants to creep into a dark corner or even bring about his own extinction rather than to continue this wrestling. Through these are many different encounters, we have seen man wrestling with the dark figure of his own future. And he shall come again with glory This future is life with God. Christ thinks we are worth going out to search for and bringing home, and so we are indeed so. If he is finally there to receive us, then we will indeed finally have life. Since there are no constraints on him, or on his ability to pull us together and sustain us in being, we will have life without limit or end.
God seeks us. He does so for our sake, not for his. Because he is truly himself, independent of any relationship he has with us, he is able to give us the recognition that establishes us. Only the Father can recognise who the Son brings home, and call them by name with enough authority finally to settle who they are. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and, filled with compassion, ran to him (Luke 15.20). If God comes to collect us, we exist. If he comes to collect the living and the dead, for the dead are not dead to him. The Holy Spirit brings us together in Christ to recognise the Father, and so to say that he, and no other, is the one who can do this – he has authority, he is Lord. According to Richard Baxter: The heavenly hosts, world without end shall be my company above and thou my best and surest friend who shall divide me from thy love? Christ has the power to make the persons of our past, the persons of our future: the resurrection of the dead is a transfer out of the past to unconfined life. Christ with the Spirit gives us a place in the communion of saints. Each person, in particular each saint, brings us some part of this good gift of God to us, and with it some part of our very own identity. Though we may all be situated in history, in-turned, dead to one another, we are not trapped in it for we are not secure from the call of God; we will be raised and brought to face one another, both with those we wanted to avoid and those we assumed were dead and gone and could not be raised. Nothing in all creation has the power to remain dead before God. We will yet become human, for with much more patience that we can imagine, our resurrection is waiting for us. He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy 4. The sacrifice of Christ The Christian service of worship is Christ’s service. It is his worship of God, and it is his service to us in bringing us into his worship of God. He makes us holy and presents us as such. He makes us holy and perfect, and presents us so to God who receives us so. He brings man into existence, makes him perfect and uniting him to God. Since he makes us holy and presents us as holy to God, we are Christ’s sacrifice. Christ its head sacrifices his body, by making it holy and presenting to the Father. We are the gift, Christ is the giver and God receives us from him. In all this the gift is a person, Christ, and many persons, all those whom Christ brings with him. Not only are the giver and receiver persons, but so is their gift and sacrifice. God does not wait to receive things from us, but persons, who in freedom give and return themselves to him. since they do so in time, they may give themselves in instalments, and thus they may give things, as tokens or instalments of themselves. Augustine puts it this way: ‘He is both the priest, himself making the offering, and the offering. This is the reality, and he intended the daily sacrifice of the Church, being the
body which he is the Head, learns to offer itself through him. This is the true sacrifice’ (Augustine City of God 10.20). Christ is our sacrifice in the sense that, in giving thanks to the Father for him, we lift him up in acknowledgement what we receive through him. We are able to lift him up in thanks and praise because he lifts us up in reality. We ‘sacrifice’ Christ, with our thanks and praise, returning acknowledgement that it is he who holds us in communion with God and with each other. Behind Christ in the eucharist is the whole communion of saints. He contains them and hides and protects them from us. They are already there, but they wait for us. At the resurrection they will be revealed to us and we will be raised to them. When we can hear them perfectly we will at last be made capable of seeing them. Meanwhile the Holy Spirit supplies us with all Christ’s people, and all Christ’s people supply us with his Spirit and all our future catholicity. They are in that cup, they are the secret of our future, and we will finally be ourselves when we are with them. Saint Augustine puts it like this:
If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and His members, your mystery is presented at the table of the Lord, you receive your mystery. To that which you are, you answer: `Amen'…Be a member of Christ's Body, so that your `Amen' may be the truth.’ (Sermon 272)
5. Our sacrifice and service in Christ As he comes to us Christ brings all men with him, and when we can receive them all and can give thanks to him for them the incarnation of all creation in Christ will be complete. All other persons will be our sacrifice to God. Thus we may also raise and offer one another to God. God does not wait to receive things from us, but persons, who in freedom give and return themselves to him. since they do so in time, they may give themselves in instalments, and thus they may give material things, as tokens or instalments of themselves. To say this we need a pneumatological christology which establishes that in Christ we may become fully material and present to one another, embodied persons. The fact that there is a creation and we are set in the middle of it is the first and fundamental act that establishes us in communion with God and with everything else that has existence. This is our action to carry out, not without Christ, but with him, as directed and enabled by our head. It of an action that is past, present and future, and which is simultaneously Christ’s and all his people’s. The Church is the gate through which the world presently outside the body of Christ can enter it. The Church and its passion is the path along which the world must go. The Lord commands the Church to break and distribute itself and make itself the opening that the world go through, so the Church suffers the world. The Church is Passover for the world: they will walk over our bodies to their salvation. They are saved by our works, our service and passion. They will deal out whatever rage they want to us, and in Christ we will be able to take it
without giving it back, and so without being moved by it. The Church – the people of God present to us in this generation – is the conduit and passage through which the world enters the communion of God. Thus it is the Church which is present, with Christ, in the eucharist. The whole Church is given to the present Church and the present Church is part of the eucharistic bread which it holds out to the world. Christ is our great high priest. We have said that we are the many fragments that he has gathered up here, and he holds out for us the one bread that is us with him. The body is united, first, last and always, that single indivisible loaf, which nothing in all creation can break. The world is the fragments that are becoming that single whole. In the body of Christ, which is the form of the communion of Holy Spirit, the world is being redeemed. For us now, the resurrection takes the form of the passion of the Church. The passion of the Church, the body of Christ, is what we drink from that eucharistic cup. Christ is in that eucharistic cup, and we and all creation are in there with him. ‘There you are on the table, there you are in the cup’, as St Augustine says (Sermon 229). ‘If you receive them well, you are that which you receive’ (Sermon 227) We are Christ’s sacrifice and offering. Christ is our sacrifice and offering. ‘This sacrifice is ourselves’… Such is the Christian sacrifice: the multitude – a single body in Christ’ (City of God 10.6). We bear one another to Christ Now we can say also that other people are our sacrifice and offering. We bring them in Christ to God. We bring the people who owe their faith to us into the assembly of God. The gift we bring to God in Christ is one another. In the Holy Spirit Christ makes us present to one another, but he does not do this unilaterally, for this would be a unilateral imposition. He offers us one another, and he waits until we are able to receive one another as good gifts, bringing us to our proper relative places. Christ not only gives but waits. He does not give us one another all at once, but serially, through time. He serves us and waits on us and waits for us, and this waiting is what time is. The saints are the voices of those without voice, who keep open the world’s crisis of identity. For now Christ makes himself present only in this disguised form, so that our freedom to receive this life from him, or not to receive it, is entirely ours. As Richard Baxter puts it in one hymn:
We still are centred all in thee though distant, members of one Head within one family we be and by one faith and Spirit led (Richard Baxter NEH 371)
The resurrection that raises us to Christ, will also raise us and bring us face to face with all men. He now sends us all these people ahead of him to us, so our resurrection, imperceptibly underway since our baptism, consists in meeting these saints who already make up his glorious body. So, because Christ is with the Holy Spirit in that cup, the saints, their whole sanctified people, are in that cup. So we sing: Respond, ye souls in endless rest Ye patriarchs and prophets blest
Alleluia, alleluia, Ye holy Twelve, ye martyrs strong All saints triumphant raise the song Alleluia, alleluia (Common Praise 230 Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones) 6. Eternity gives us time This world is God’s place for us. It is the house and temple in which he will live with us and us with him. All that is in it is good, and it remains good as we allow God to renew and refresh it for us. When we do not receive it from him and thank him for it in our worship, the world, becomes increasingly disordered and we ourselves become increasingly at desperate and at odds, and a danger to ourselves to one another. From the communion of God, divine communion floods in to us, so that eternity renews time without end. Eternity is breaking into time, divinity eternally breaking into humanity and uniting it to divinity. We experience this an in-breaking into history; eternity breaks into humanity both eternally and historically. All the services that seem to us to be set at different times are in fact going on simultaneously. They are going on in the time God gives them, and so immediately before God. God supplies them with the time they have, and he supplies that undivided time to us, as we can take it, in small instalments, one after another. Time originates with God. He supplies it to his people. It spills out from the Church into the world outside the Church, there to become the plain, linear, everyday time, that we all assume is the only sort of time there is. Each Church service is the merciful extension of new time for the world, an extension of opportunity to all its people. The arrival of Christ is what the eucharist is. In our worship we hear it as the ringing of a bell. It comes with the thunderous noise of creation opening to let the king of glory in. The judge is on the way and we cannot know how far away he is. At any moment he may be at the door, so let us keep watch (Mark 13.35). The time which God came to man is both temporal (one moment in our time) and it is eternal, and so not limited to the past. To the question ‘when’ we have to reply with all three tenses. He came, he comes and is now present (by his Spirit) and he will come. Then we need to affirm that our two accounts point to God's one indivisible act: we can distinguish between them, but they are not finally separable. In Christ the future of the whole human race has penetrated forward into our time. Christian hope means that we can see our future as free; it does not see past and future as opposed, but the future as the re-ordering and summation of the past in which none is lost. We should receive the present, and all the persons of which our present is made up, as a question about our own identity, and as an invitation to share a future which will redeem and enlarge our present. The present is sustained by instalments of the future, which we may receive as invitations and summons to take up our place among the assembly of all free persons. The future is that large number of persons who wait for us ahead. Those now around us are the small advance party sent to us by the whole assembly that
is waiting ahead of us. Eternity comes to us now, live, and it comes in the form of receiving other people (and letting go of all false relationships) and this means waiting for other people (and their waiting for us to let go of false relationships, and waiting for us to receive them. 7. The future glory of the whole people made visible We see the future of humanity every time the Christian people is gathered. At the head of these people in Church we see this figure whenever the eucharist is celebrated. He is the figure of man with God, and God with man. He is the figure directly before us in Church. There in front of us at the altar is the bishop, or whichever clergyman presides in his place. There is one single human being, and that human being is an image, an icon, of Christ. Christ puts him there just in order that we can marvel at this wonder of the appearing of man glorified with God. But can we possibly put such significance on this single figure? Would it not be scandalous to identify the Church with this one figure? It is indeed the scandal of the gospel that the individual, the single figure, is fundamental and cannot be subsumed into any higher collective or unity. This one man, up in front of us is the sign that the single figure of every human being is fundamental. Jesus Christ is unique, the irreplaceable and irreducible. It is the stumblingblock of the gospel that one name only is our salvation, and that Jesus is this single and unique one. He is singly fundamental, and in him each of us is a unique and singular being. The singularity of this one figure, so visibly set before us is the guarantee that we will all be singular. Because his exaltation is the source of our equality, and we are all made unique, and therefore equally unique, not by a reduction of Christ’s uniqueness, but as the glorious result of it. The bishop is, as we so readily point out, just a man, and a man wrapped up in the closed and self-serving institutional church. Our bishop is even a sinful man. But more interesting still than that he is a sinner, is that he is a sinner being redeemed and transformed. This redemption is happening publicly, so we are looking at a public transfiguration. So when we look at the bishop or clergyman, which shall we see? Shall we see the sinner or the glorified man? Which do we want to see, the sin or the glory? What we see over the long term will be what we become. So let us look at that bishop, and tell him that he is being glorified, and that we are watching. When you see this happening, we will be able to look around from this one figure of the bishop to see that the same thing is happening to other figures in the Church. You will see the spreading radiance of Christ, because it will be happening within you and happening to you. The whole people, that is, bishop and people together, are the body of Christ for us. The priest and people are together the priestly body of Christ for us: they are not this without Christ, but in Christ they are the body of this head. At the moment of epiclesis and consecration, we see a fusion of priest and people into a single unity of priesthood. Then we can say that any clergyman is
strictly only ‘priest’ when standing before these eucharistic elements and congregation. We have to grasp how intrinsically relational the concept of priest is. No individual is a priest, considered on his own. He is only a priest when he is with the gathered people. We should use the term ‘priest’ to mean the one-and-many combined; the epiclesis and consecration create an event of that fused priest and people into a single unity of priesthood. The minister is strictly only ‘priest’ when standing before these eucharistic elements and congregation, never ‘a’ priest in their absence. The concept of priest is intrinsically relational. It relies on the simultaneity of the three constituents of priest, people and eucharistic elements. Then, pushing things even further, we can say that (1) the priest stands for the catholic Church worldwide, (2) the people of this congregation stand for this specific locality, and (3) the eucharistic elements stand for the whole body of Christ that is assembled around Christ, in heaven and past and future to us. We bow before the priest because he is this image. He bows to us, because he recognises the glory of the image of Christ in us. We see the priest as Christ and the priest sees us, the congregation, as Christ. In his liturgical robes the priest is humankind already dressed in the glory of our redeemed future. He becomes the likeness of Christ to the people and they become the likeness of Christ to him. The priest becomes God-with-man without in least ceasing to be human, but rather in becoming man-with-God. Each eucharist is a theophany. The man that we see at the altar is man with God. He is the whole truth of man. God loves man and has decided to be with him. No matter how much man sets himself in opposition to God, God is not in opposition to him and does not act this opposition from him and will not allow this opposition to be the final truth of man. It is not that, if more of God is present that there must be less of man. No. when the priest becomes the image of Christ in glory for us, he does not cease to be human, but rather become properly human at last. We have come before God’s holy mountain, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. We have come before countless angels making festival, before the assembly of the first-born citizens of heaven. We have come before God, the righteous judge of all, before the spirits of the just made perfect. We are come before Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken: let us therefore give thanks to our God,
Canticle 47 A SONG OF GOD’S ASSEMBLED
Transfigured people In every Church service is a theophany, an appearance of God. God comes to us as God who is with man. God who is vested with light – he ‘wraps himself in light’ (psalm 104), indeed he wraps himself in all creation, for our sake. We are able to see him when we ourselves are vested with his glory. We are being clothed in the garments of Christ, and are able to help one another to
learn how to wear these more glorious clothes. As it says: Here we are clothed with Christ, dying to sin that we may live his risen life. In every Church service Christ is at work, bringing about the transfiguration of the people present. We see these other around us as the people of God, to whom God has come and with whom God dwells, and so who are already with God. Our future holiness becomes apparent to one another. We see this transfiguration through the medium of the priest and deacons. Their vestments are the clue: they show us how we shall all look when we are clad in the glory of God. Every face is the image and face of Christ. We tell them that however defaced by anger and fear now, we see their faces glorified and radiant. They shall be like the saints; those who wear vestments in the service now will be truly vested with the glory of God then. As we are glorified we do not become less human, but more human. We are transformed, and become finally and thoroughly priestly, truly representative, persons in love and communion with all other persons. The point is not simply that Jesus became incarnate to us in this past tense, but that he enables us to enter this incarnation. This incarnation is the communion of God for man, within which we can allow ourselves to become incarnate and available to one another, fully, and for all time. As he comes to us Christ brings all men with him, and when we can receive them all and can give thanks to him for them, the incarnation of all creation in Christ will be complete. It will not be a matter of past history shared by those few witnesses, but of our universal present history, and so the consummation of all time. We look forward to becoming properly present to one another and this is what our hope of the resurrection is. The Christian community is the gathering up of all elements of creation, all materiality, redeemed. With this eucharistic wine becomes perceptible we are getting a foretaste of the future, and of our own future reality, when humanity is joined with God, the mortal with the eternal. Then each of us will be joined to all others – and so we will be human at last. Each of them has received from Christ a piece of the future creation, and so represent a piece of our own true selves that we must receive from them. That is why we sing: Ye saints, who toil below, Adore your heavenly King. And onward as ye go Some joyful anthem sing; Take what he gives And praise him still, Through good or ill, Who ever lives! Ye holy angels bright, Who wait at God’s right hand, Or through the realms of light Fly at your Lord’s command, Assist our song; For else the theme Too high doth seem For mortal tongue. Ye blessed souls at rest, Who ran this earthly race, And now, from sin released, Behold the Saviour’s face, God’s praises sound, As in his sight, With sweet delight, Ye do abound.
Ye saints, who toil below, Adore your heavenly King. And onward as ye go Some joyful anthem sing; Take what he gives And praise him still, Through good or ill, Who ever lives! My soul, bear thou thy part, Triumph in God above: And with a well-tuned heart Sing thou the songs of love! Let all thy days Till life shall end, Whate’er he send, Be filled with praise. (Richard Baxter)
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