Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stained-Glass Ceilings - What would St Jerome say?

The Times (London) has an article by its Religion Correspondent, Ruth Gledhill with the headline Historic Church of England deal paves way for first women bishops . I have been reading more than writing over the last few days but I am making lots of notes. I am revisiting Marina Warner's book Alone of all her sex: the myths and cults of the Virgin Mary; which so my handwritten note on the inside cover tells me - I purchased and first read in Oxford in 1979.

Several years of theological study and three-quarters-of-a-lifetime of daily theological reading since  I first read it , has made  the book come alive in my re-reading of it. 
I know not what shall become of this reading and pondering but I am determined to look further at the notion of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) as the Second Eve.
The  reference in n The Times today  to Stained-Glass Ceilings in relation to  'women bishops'   and my re-reading of some of the material regarding the BVM from the Patristic Period,  pose to me a question that needs to be thought through: If those women presenting for ordination as priests or bishops today were intact virgins would the Early Fathers approve of their ordination?  Listen to what St Jerome says:
"as long as a women is for birth and children, she is different from man as body is from soul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will ceased to be a woman and will be called a man."   
St Jerome, Comm.in Epist. ad Ephes. III

I am researching further a comment attributed to St Ambrose which goes along the line: 
"She who does not believe is a woman and should be designated by the name of her sex, whereas she who believes progresses to perfect manhood, to the measure of the adulthood of Christ. She then dispenses with the name of her sex"
Mary Daly quotes this in The Church and the Second Sex  (p. 43, Boston, 1968) but I am still looking to verfy this last quote.

Just some random jottings from me as I read and reflect a little further on this -  but I cannot help but think about the Stained-Glass ceiling without a topographical  reference to the intact Maidenhead so be beloved by the Early Fathers. Does RUth see a connection perhaps?

Friday, December 26, 2008


Recessional by Alan Franks.
A poem written specially for Christmas for  Ruth Gledhill's blog in The Times, with apologies to John Betjeman and Rudyard Kipling.

Gracious Lord, it seems like ages
Since we had a little chat.
Heaven knows, we've all been anxious -
Not that we blame you for that.
Father, what a dreadful year,
Losing much we hold most dear.
I am loath to add to such
An inventory of loss and stress:
From Northern Rock to - goodness - Woolworths
(Though we veer to M and S.)
Yet one-eight-nine Cadogan Square
Once more requires your special care.

Through the war, you well remember,
How your will was amply done,
Sparing our grandparents from
The hand of, pardon me, the Hun.
The slump, we fear, will make us suffer
Worse effects than the Luftwaffe.

Such is fame today, we only
Note the great ones going down,
Overlooking, most unjustly,
Unsung firms like Harkness Brown
Where hardly anyone was caught
In any form of selling short,

Least of all my husband Harry
Who's entirely lost his pep;
Joe and Jonquil both at Eton,
Podge and Mimi still at prep;
Our tiny Norfolk hideaway
Gone back below 500 k.

Intending no irreverence,
Your house has likewise shed some stock.
You for this are once more blameless,
We who should be in the dock.
(For what it's worth I'm in the tent
Of antidisestablishment.)

We will labour, Lord, to value
What is not material,
Not that we pretend this won't be,
To begin with, hard as hell.
We will strive to feel we're blessed
With liberty through joblessness.

And we'll definitely stop saying
How we're neighbours of the Blairs,
And we'll jettison our shame
And empty anger when we hear
That dull young man from Foxtons state
We're only looking at 3.8.

Lord, I will leave your house til next time
Willing servant, mother, wife,
Praying that, if appropriate,
You bring the market back to life.
Meanwhile, though little and though late,
I've left a tenner in the plate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa's Helpers

The Synod Hall is looking  closer to Santa's Workshop than any Myer window display or Hollywood Santa movie. This week the Archdeacon joined  his family in frenetic hamper packing; making their own Yeatsean production line. The hampers and food parcels are being collected as fast as they are being constructed. We have had sailors, frozen food producers, pensioners, school children and now the first clergy family packing for the poor... in the words of the old Negro Spiritual "there's room for many amore".

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kid's Mass Kit

Somewhere in the mail this week  - and I now can't remember wether it was in the Snail or E mail -  I came across an advertisement for a new product, released on my birthday,  from a company in the US called Wee Believers.

The company states its aim as "... a new family company dedicated to creating authentically Catholic toys that educate, entertain and enrich the faith lives of children."  They even have an endorsement (not quite an imprimatur) from Archbishop Raymond L Bourke (Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura).

The publicity and  pdf. poster that I managed to download for their  latest product certainly 'entertained'  some big children at Diocesan HQ.

The item in question (shown above)  is a plastic 'Mass Set' for BOYS aged between 3 & 11.

I'll let their  PR blurb provide the full details..
Pieces include: (All Cloth) Crucifix, Chalice, Thurible, Finger Bowl, Purificator, 2 Cruets, 2 Candles, Corporal, Paten, Hosts

Overview: My Mass Kit is the flagship product in the WeeBelievers™ emerging Catholic toy line. This innovative, educational and entertaining soft-sculpture toy is aimed at play for young boys ages 3-11. Children will enjoy 'playing Mass' using this kit as a part of their play-time activities at home or at school and in environments such as a church sanctuary where busy-child activity requires solemn attendance.

My Mass Kit includes most items used during Holy Mass to aid in a child's first-hand interaction with the sacramental pieces used by the priest in the sacred liturgy. Also included is an ecclesial-approved instruction booklet to educate and foster faith exploration between adults and children. My Mass Kit is an excellent tool for catechists and faith-formation teachers, as well as parents, grandparents and godparents, anyone who interacts in faith development during early childhood development.

Some of my more Liberal-Catholic friends would no doubt of spotted with some horror that this toy is only for BOYS. Perhaps by next year they will bring out the toy Altars to go with the mass sets and plastic flowers and carpet sweepers for the girls ministries in the Sanctuary ?!?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Churches Advertising Network - UK: 30 Sec Christmas Ad

The UK-based Churches Advertising Network set a competition for the Christmas Story to be told in a radio or Video format in under 30 Seconds. The winner was Frankie Hipwell-Larkin and you can see his video here

The runners up are on the Churches Advertising Network site here  -  It would seem that the "Put the Christ back into Christmas" campaign is finally working !!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God

A lot has been written this week, understandably given that the appointed Gospel reading is from Mark 1, about the experiences one can have when out in the physical wilderness. The writers have been on the majority 'city dwellers' who rarely see the stars at night due to a combination of city lights and fog. Living miles from anywhere this is the opposite to my own experience. When I step out at night I am reminded of the vastness of what lies beyond us; the billions of stars and planets which appear hung in their appointed places. 

Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Creation was the first large-scale choral work that I performed in as a boy  and I can still remember the thrill of singing "The Heavens are telling the Glory of God". I am reminded (with the music filling my head) of this each night when the stars greet me.

Another song from my childhood, but from an altogether different style, which I also remember when looking at the stars proclaims:
"If there's life on other planets, then I'm sure that he must know, and He's been there once already and will take those children home".
As part of our stopping and listening this Advent let's look at the stars like the wisemen did and at least get some idea of God's greatness

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Imago Dei (us) - Et incarnatus est (God)

Following on from my earlier post on Advent, I subsequently came across an article in todays edition of The Tablet by Fr James Hanvey SJ, entitled Waiting for the Light. 

It immediately struck a chord with me as Fr Hanvey  shares some ideas that have been fundamental to some of my recent writings, in particular: the paper for the Ballarat interfaith Forum on Why does the Human Race exist; The Diocesan study for Advent Three and the previous post on this blog

Fr James' article is detailed and therefore lengthy - if you haven't the  time to read it all, the exerts below support some of the positions I have taken in the articles listed above:
Advent calls us to renew and deepen our trust, while the world finds trust difficult, and "hope" is dismissed as naïve

Where a post-Christian society has forgotten how to read the substance of Christian faith, there can be a genuine ignorance but also a cultivated misunderstanding among those who presume to know Christianity already.

The Church wants humanity to succeed, not fail. That is why it is passionately engaged in this struggle. It does not have any ambition to take away the legitimate independence of the secular but it does have a vision of what that might be.

Advent calls us to consider not only that God is, but who God is. It does not present a puzzle but a mystery: God has finally disclosed his name, "Emanuel" - God with us. We expect a great theophany but all we have is an obscure stable. Even more radically, God chooses to be a man, a person, a human being. Humanity and God are now inseparable and cannot be thought apart.

…the Advent liturgy offers no false dreams. With a steady, clear-eyed realism it asks us to look at the world in which we live; the world in which Word has chosen to become flesh.

In Christ, God creates freedom, he does not destroy it. God, who comes to us with unexpected humility, is born, lives and dies in poverty, does not choose to overpower us but offers us an utterly new possibility. God does not confront us with a boundary, he presents us with an infinite horizon. He calls us into a deeper freedom and love by giving us the greatest freedom of all: the self-emptying of love beyond the bonds of family, nation and self-interest; beyond the accumulation of wealth or security for the sake of the good, especially the good of those who are the weakest and the most despised, those who have no freedom or power or anything to commend them except that they too are his image.


Have you noticed that there has been a renewed focus on Advent this year? The paper and electronic media have been a buzz with the directions and pronouncements of senior clerics; the Archbishop of Canterbury has even posted a video on youtube.

Ruth Gledhill, writing in The Times sums it up thus:

The Advent period running up to Christmas, traditionally a time of reflection and contemplation, has been "squeezed" by consumer pressures and frenetic activity, the Church said at the launch of a new website to help Christians mark the season.

This new website WhyAreWeWaiting offers:

"... an online calendar, podcasts, reflections and "waiting tips" on the Advent season described as a "daily dose of chocolate" for the soul."
Yummy as Fr David Oulton would say!

When I tried to access it earlier I recieved a message informing me that the site had exceed its daily allowance, which hopefully indicates that it is getting 'well hit' (I think that is the correct lingo!).

The Diocesan Office in Ballarat has also had to place an additional order for Advent Candles this year, exceeding last years intra-diocesan orders by the first week of November and now out of stock form the second order placed.

Could it be that we are aware that the commercial-side of Christmas will be less glitzy this year and so we are wanting to re-discover the true purpose of the Advent Season? Thereby preparing ourselves for the re-discovery of the best Christmas gift of all: that God became Man in Jesus.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Prayers for Bombay

Today in the liturgies at the Cathedral, as in so many other places around the World, we prayed for all those affected by the recent attacks in Bombay:the dead, the injured, their loved ones and those still in danger. I have posted a prayer for peace here that may be helpful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New side-bar items

Its amazing what a Race Day can bring - it used to be Champagne and friends for lunch now its spending time at the computer catching up on all the on-line housekeeping that's been allowed to slip as other demands mount.

So today has been a productive day with posts to most of my blogs and web sites.

On here you will see some additions in the sidebar when you scroll down a little. One of the new options from Blogger is a feature called "Followers" that will allow you (upon you entering your details) to follow the blogs and updates.

And there is now a link to the YouTube channel

pax et lux


The Lazy Servant

We’re in the middle of three Sundays that for Matthew’s gospel tie-up Jesus’ earthly teaching.

And what readings they are: last week we had the foolish virgins being shut out of the wedding party, this week the laszy steward is rewarded with a life of misery and next week we have tha parable of the sheep and the goats with the commendation to outer darkness of those who have failed to recognize Jesus in the poor and hungry around them.

Just the sort of readings to get us into the ‘Christmas Spirit’!

Matthew is writing about 50 years after Christ first told this parable, and he’s wrting for a community that expected Christ’s return to be imminent. The message from last week was to ‘be prepared’ – it was very much a CFA style message; you wont know when or where, so be prepared and alert.

There is a big difference between being aware of dangers, watching for signs in a prepared/practiced way and just living in fear of what might happen.

There is something of that in today’s parable:
The person who refused to let the money work identifies his fears. The owner reaps where he has not sown and gathers harvest that was not originally his.
A pretty good description of hard business practice in any age. A fear of being abandoned seems to motivate burying the talents.
Matthew's community might think of the controversy over the expansion of the gospel into the Gentile world and the refusal of some Jews to accept that the doors should be flung open so recklessly.
God is misbehaving again and they cannot believe it and refuse to support the mission to non-jews. In typically Matthean style the text promises only damnation for such lack of trust.

If the modern use of talents has any relation to the text, it is at the level of allowing God's life do its adventures with us and putting our talents (our natural abilities) at God's disposal. The talents of the parable are really about God's life and power, not about our natural abilities. But the appropriate response is to allow God's investing hand to employ our abilities.

The tragedy is that many people are afraid of losing or endangering God and so seek to protect God from adventures, to resist attempts at radical inclusion that might, they fear, compromise God's purity and holiness.

Protecting God is a way in which we can hide the fact that we do not trust God. Matthew wants his hearers to share God's adventure of inclusiveness. God is bigger than our little religious boxes that we like to put God into.

I like the modern paraphrase of the reading that we heard this morning - It is a fascinating thing to have God compared to the entrepreneurial multimillionaire. "God's mercy never ends" is a way of saying grace has capital, love is rich.

We need to encourage people to stop putting God under the mattress. As we begin to trust God to move through us, our lives change as individuals and our communities have a better chance of change.

The trouble with this third guy is that he doesn’t recognise a gift when it is handed to him on a plate. And because he can’t recognise the gift, or the generosity of the gift-giver, he lives his life in fear that this is some sort of test.

This is the sort of person who sees God as the harsh examiner in the sky, watching us for mistakes and eager to find a reason to condemn us. And so, fearful of slipping up, such a person never risks engaging with the fullness of actually living.

They are terribly worried that if they open themselves up to others and love and laugh and share, they might somehow expose themselves to some kind of temptation and make a mistake, and so they don’t take the risk. They live life by the miserly handful, so afraid of ever getting a black mark against their name that they never take the risks required to get a tick either.

And, as in nest weeks gospel reading, they will arrive at the judgment and hand back a life unlived.

They accuse God of being harsh and ungenerous. They treat God’s gracious gifts as some kind of poisoned chalice and refuse to even take a sip.

God recognises that we are all different. Some of us had a good start in life and others were born into a living hell.

Some of us have known nothing but love, and others have been hurt, damaged and trampled on every time they have opened themselves up to anyone.

God knows that having been dealt differing hands in life, we will not all be capable of generating the same amount of love and compassion and self-sacrificing generosity.

But the boss in Jesus’s story did not condemn the second worker for only generating a profit of two talents when his mate had generated five. They were equally rewarded from making the best they could from where they started out.

The only one condemned was the one who refused to have a go, and who in so doing accused God of playing deceitful games.

And let’s for a moment get beyond just thinking about this in individual terms. We, gathered here, are the recipients of an extraordinary gift in one another. This congregation and the life and prayer it shares together is a gift for which many people would understandably hunger. So the question Matthew’s gospel would put to us, is what are you doing with that gift?

Are we focusing our energies on trying to preserve what we have intact, content to just make sure that at the end of our time there is still a church here, preserved in the same pristine condition we received it in? Still doing things the way we did 20, 30 or 50 years ago. Putting things back to how they were to sustain our comfortable memories, limiting God and putting him back in the box we like in him.

Or are we prepared to live out our faith openly and generously, to give it away in love and mercy?

Can we turn our prayers into a shared life of reckless acceptance, radical hospitality, and extravagant generosity to those outside our doors?

When we pray “send us out in the power of your spirit to live and work to your praise and glory” are we making a commitment to living in the generous and joyous spirit of this celebration out there in our everyday lives.

Can we say to our friends who have joined us today that this is there church too?

Matthew is challenging us to make sure it is not just words. We’ve got to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

There are real risks involved in taking that challenge. If we accept it we will make some mistakes, we may lose some treasured things along the way, we may get hurt from time to time, and perhaps even crucified.

But as the first two employees discovered and proved, if we shake off the shackles of timidity and invest all we have fully in life, we will not only be commended as good and faithful servants, but we will find our life multiplying over and over, and ourselves welcomed warmly into the joyous celebratory life of our extravagantly generous God.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lay-lead Service Resources

During the last few weeks we have prepared a number of resources for lay-lead services. More will follow over the next month or so.

The resources are available form the diocesan website for down-loading.