Thursday, February 2, 2023

Candlemas - Turtledoves and THE Lamb



Forty days after the birth of Jesus, today is often regarded as rounding off the Christmas/ Epiphany season. That's why some churches (and homes) leave their Christmas decorations up until today. It's also why we like to have 'O come, all ye faithful . . .' sung quietly and reverently as a Communion Hymn in today's Mass.

The readings and prayers for this day take us back to the birth of Jesus, and they beckon us forward to the beginning of Lent, and then his suffering and death. 

The Gospel reading (Luke 2:22-39) tells of Mary and Joseph going to the temple with the baby Jesus, that they might be purified 'according to the Law,' and Jesus consecrated to the Lord. The old man Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit, discerns Jesus to be God’s Messiah, 'the light to enlighten the nations'. It is for this reason that the blessing and lighting of candles has long been associated with this day. Anna, the old prophetess, who had prayed and fasted every day in expectation of the 'redemption of Jerusalem', saw Jesus and began to tell everyone about him.

In Anglo-Saxon times it was '. . . appointed in the ecclesiastical observances that we on this day bear our lights to church and let them be there blessed; and that we should go afterward with the light among Godʼs houses and sing the hymn that is thereto appointed. Though some men cannot sing they can, nevertheless, bear the light in their hands; for on this day was Christ, the true light, borne to the temple, Who redeemed us from darkness and bringeth us to the eternal light.' - The Ritual Reason Why, by C. Walker (1886) page 197.

In the midst of today’s joyful festival, we hear old Simeon’s enigmatic remark to our Lady - 'a sword shall pierce your own soul, too' -, reminding us of her participation in all that Jesus suffered for our redemption.

Orthodox Christians call today’s feast 'Hypapante' (Greek for 'the encounter'), seeing in the juxtaposition of the Child and the old man the encounter of the fading age of the Old Covenant and the new era of Jesus and his Church. 

There is more than a touch of irony in the fact that the poor, if they couldn’t afford a lamb to offer in sacrifice and thanksgiving, could bring turtle doves or even pigeons. Mary and Joseph were poor, and although - according to today’s Gospel reading - they brought turtle doves or pigeons, we know that they actually brought the only Lamb that has ever really mattered: Jesus, 'Mary’s little Lamb', the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Today is our feast of candles, with the warmth of their light pointing to Jesus, the light of the world.

Each of us is given a candle today as a reminder that having received the light of Jesus, which at the very beginning of creation pierced the darkness and which no darkness can overpower, we are to shine in the darkness of our own time that others may find him and be set free to walk in his light.

* * * * * * * * * * 

Joseph Beaumont (1616-1699), was a priest of the Church of England, a Royal Chaplain, and then Master, successively, of Jesus College and Peterhouse in Cambridge. In this poem he beautifully intertwines the themes of the Candlemas Gospel reading: 

May we have leave to ask, illustrious Mother,
Why thou dost turtles bring
For thy Son’s offering,
And rather giv’st not one lamb for another? 
It seems that golden shower which th’other day
The forward faithful East
Poured at thy feet, made haste
Through some devout expence to find its way. 
O precious poverty, which canst appear
Richer to holy eyes
Than any golden prize,
And sweeter art than frankincense and myrrh! 
Come then, that silver, which thy turtles wear
Upon their wings, shall make
Precious thy gift, and speak
That Son of thine, like them, all pure and fair. 
But know that heaven will not be long in debt;
No, the Eternal Dove
Down from his nest above
Shall come, and on thy son’s dear head shall sit.
Heaven will not have Him ransomed, heaven’s law
Makes no exception
For lambs, and such a one
Is He: a fairer Lamb heaven never saw. 
He must be offered, or the world is lost:
The whole world’s ransom lies
In this great sacrifice;
And He will pay its debt, whate’er it cost. 
Nor shall these turtles unrepayed be,
These turtles which today
Thy love for Him did pay:
Thou ransom’dst Him, and He will ransom thee. 
A dear and full redemption will He give
Thee and the world: this Son,
And none but this alone
By His own death can make His Mother live.

(Joseph Beaumont's poem can be found in
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden: The Mary Book of Verse. 
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1947.)

Monday, January 30, 2023

Professor David Flint on Charles, King and Martyr

I invited esteemed Professor David Flint to preach at All Saints’ Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, Australia, at a Solemn Evensong and Benediction on Sunday 30th January, 2000, commemorating the Martyrdom of King Charles 1. I have kept his sermon, and share it with you here.


Painting by Ernest Crofts of King Charles
being led to his execution (London, UK, 1901)

THAT COLD JANUARY DAY
On that sad, bitterly cold day 351 years ago, the 30th January 1649, before he was to die, Bishop Juxon offered these words of comfort to King Charles I:- “There is but one stage more . . . which though turbulent and troublesome yet is a very short one; you may consider it will soon carry you a great way; it will carry you from Earth to Heaven, and there you shall find, to your great joy, the prize to hasten you, a crown of glory.”

And the King replied; “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world”.

From a corruptible to an incorruptible crown ...

I take as my text words which were to have been read at the King’s funeral, but which were prohibited. They are from the Fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle of the Blessed Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.

(Indeed, they are part of the very lesson prescribed in the Burial Service)

“All flesh is not the same flesh; but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; he last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”

The theme of this text was no doubt the inspiration for the King, for among his last words were those I have just read:- “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, not disturbance in the world”

With your leave, I propose to speak first on the martyrdom of the King. And second on the reasons why it is right that we remember this act of martyrdom.


THE MARTYRDOM OF THE KING
The 30th January 1649 is a day which, is at one and the same time, a day of infamy, a day of sadness and yet, a day of glory.

It is a day of infamy, for the murder of an anointed king shakes the very foundations of civilization.

Shakespeare reminds us of the enormity of this crime of, this crime of the murder of a King, of Regicide. Thus Richard II laments:-

“Not all the waters in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm from an anointed king;
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord:”

Not all the waters in the rough rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed King.

That the unlawful execution of the King constituted a murder - the heinous crime of Regicide - there can be little doubt. Indeed, the King himself reminders his tormentors of this. When the president, Bradshaw, reminds him he was before a court of justice, the King replies, dryly - “I am before a power.”

A power. Not a court, a power. And the King throws the proceedings into disarray when he points to its fundamental illegality. Hear the King’s own words:-

“No earthly power can justly call me (who am your King) in question as a delinquent . . . I would not any more open my mouth upon this occasion, more than to refer myself to what I have spoken, were I in this case alone concerned: But the duty I owe to God in the preservation of the true liberty of my people will not suffer me at this time to be silent.”

And then the King reminds his tormentors of this fundamental proposition that a prosecution must be ruled by law:-

“There is no proceeding just against any man, but what is warranted, either by God’s laws or the municipal laws of the country where he lives . . . Now I am confident this day’s proceedings cannot be warranted by God’s laws . . . Then for the law of the land I am no less confident that no learned lawyer will affirm that an impeachment can lie against the King . . . One of their maxims is “the King can do no wrong...”

And the King reminds the so-called court that it was constituted only by one part of the Parliament, by a vote of the House of Commons. Even then only by a House purged of every member - except those in league with Cromwell. For as the King says:-

“The major part - are detained or deferred from sitting. But how the House of Commons can erect a court of Judicature which was never one itself (as is well known to all lawyers) I leave to God and the world to judge. And it were full as strange, that they should pretend to make laws without (the) King or Lords’ House...”

And then the King, with remarkable prescience, anticipates Cromwell’s response - that the people have an inherent right to overthrow a tyrant. Now this is a right which will be claimed one century later in France and the United States. But it is a right which can be so terribly abused. As it was against Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. And as it was even more grotesquely abused in our own century. At Yekaterinberg. When not only the Tsar and Tsarina but also their children and servants were so brutally slain.

But let us go back to 1649.


THE KING'S TRIAL
Can Cromwell truthfully say that the trial is justified because the people have risen up against the King?

Charles anticipates this. Hear again the King’s own words:-

“And admitting, but not granting, that the people of England’s commission could grant you (this) pretended power, I see nothing to show that; for certainly you have never asked the question of the tenth man of the Kingdom, and in this way you manifestly wrong even the poorest plowman, if you demand not his free consent . . . nor can you pretend any colour for this your pretended Commission without the consent at least of the major part of every man in England of whatsoever quality or condition, which I am sure you never went about to seek, so far are you from having it.

“Thus you see that I speak not for mine own right alone, as I am your King, but also for the true liberty of all my subjects, which consist not in the power of government, but in living under such laws, such a government, which may give them the best assurance of their lives, and property of their goods.”

And the King concludes his impeccable answer, which Cromwell does not rebut and which Cromwell knows he cannot rebut:-

“Thus having showed you briefly the reasons why I cannot submit to you pretended authority, without violating the trust which I have from God for the welfare and liberty of my people, I expect from you either clear reasons to continue my judgement, showing me that I am error, . . . or that you withdraw your proceedings”.

So the King’s trial was delayed. The trial was of course little more than a show trial of the sort we have seen in Soviet times. Those who sat are well aware of the illegality of their proceedings. And the “judges” are well aware of the monstrous and bloody conclusion that Cromwell demands of them.

Charles was right to say that he stood for the rule of law and the liberty of his people. For under the Lord Protector that liberty was to be snuffed out. Even the simple pleasures of life were proscribed. The Lord Protector controlled the parliament, the council. He was to even take the right to nominate his successor. Palaces and vast areas of London were to be dedicated to his use.


A DAY OF GLORY
And so the 30 January was a day of infamy and it was a day of sadness. But, my brethren, it was also a day of glory.

For Charles died not only defending the rule of law, and, as he saw it, the liberties of his people. He died for more than that. He died so that the Church itself, our Church, might live. That is why he achieved the glory of martyrdom. He was prepared to concede more political power than any Tudor King had. But he would not deny his Faith. He would not preside over the death of the Church.

In the struggle with Parliament, it was clear that by 1641 the constitution had been changed to the disadvantage of the King. In fact that Parliament is now much the same position as was to be guaranteed later by the Bill of Rights at the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

But although Charles had given up so much, even more was demanded. And that related to the Church.

Let us recall that once the English Church had been cut off from Rome in the previous century, it could not fail to be influenced by what Gardiner calls “the tides of opinion flowing in from the perturbed continent”. (Samuel Rawson Gardiner, The Constitution Documents of the Puritan Revolution, 1625-1660, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, 1979, XV, XVI.) Indeed, at the end of Elizabeth’s reign the doctrine taught by the greater part of the clergy was Calvinist. While Elizabeth insisted on the use of the Book of Common Prayer, she was flexible. For example, she tolerated the refusal of some to wear the surplice. But Elizabeth’s successor, and Charles’ father James I were not so wise.

This festering dispute was more than about the wearing of the surplice. It was about doctrine. It was about discipline. For within the Church there would always be those who would join in the Creed and say with conviction: “And I believe One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. One which attaches special value to the doctrine of sacramental grace and the sacred ministry. One which regards the episcopacy, the bishops, as divinely ordained successors to the Apostles. One which finds comfort and authority in the writings of the Fathers and the early Councils.

The disputes about vestments and ceremony were of course the more visible evidence of a tension within the very bosom of the church, a tension which has lingered these four centuries and which is but a mirror of the whole Church.

So we find in 1628, a House of Commons Committee rails against the placing of the Communion Table, and against praying towards the East, against the use of pictures and candles, against standing during the Gloria, against making the sign of the cross. And there is outrage against the King in his “Declaration of Sports” in 1633. He promises that on Sundays after divine service “our good people not be disturbed, letted or discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting or any such harmless recreation, nor from having of May games, Whitsun ales and Morris dances, and the setting up of May poles.” (But there is “. . . still prohibited all unlawful games... as bear and bull baiting and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling...”)

Archbishop Laud’s (and the King’s) great mistake was the failed attempt to impose the Anglican liturgy on Scotland. This encouraged the English puritans who dominated parliament to want not only to remove all political powers from the King; they were determined to change the fundamental nature of the English Church so that it would no longer be part of that One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

So, in the Grand Remonstrance of 1641, which the Commons published, with studied discourtesy, even before the King had seen it, the Puritans call for the suppression of “oppressive and unnecessary ceremonies” and that the bishops lose their right to vote in parliament. Then there is a call that the King abridge “their immoderate power usurped over the clergy and other your good subjects which they have perniciously abused to the hazard of religion, and (the) great prejudice and oppression to the laws of the Kingdom, and just liberty of your people”.

But soon the Parliament wants even more. Civil War is now inevitable. In 1642 they effectively demand that all government be in their hands. Parliament would have unlimited powers. It would be a dictatorship. Early in the war, in the Oxford Propositions the Parliament insists the King agree to a Bill:- “for the utter abolishing and taking away of all Archbishops, Bishops, their Chancellors and Commissioners, Deans... Chapters, Archdeacons, Canons... Chanters... Sacrists... Vicars Choral and Choristers of any Cathedral or Collegiate Church.”

The English puritans are now in the ascendant. They have tasted blood. Not only do they call for Sabbath observance, there is a Bill for the perpetual suppression of stage plays. The religious enemy is now not only Popery, but to this is added “Prelacy”. Prelacy - that is the very concept, the truth of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. That now is the target.

But prelacy, the Apostolic Succession is fundamental to the King. So, the King, now in captivity, replies to the Speaker, in 1647, in these words:-

“That for the abolishing Archbishops, Bishops, His Majesty clearly professeth that he cannot give his consent thereunto, both in relation as he is a Christian and a King; for the first he avows, that he is satisfied in his judgement that this order was placed in the Church by the Apostles themselves, and ever since their time hath continued in all Christian Churches throughout the world, until this last century of years; and in this Church in all times of change and reformation it hath been upheld by the wisdom of his ancestors, as the great preserver of doctrine, discipline and order in the service of God. As a King at his coronation, he hath not only taken a solemn oath to maintain this order, but His Majesty and his predecessors in their confirmations of the Great Charter (the Magna Carta), have inseparably woven the right of the Church into the liberty of the subjects”.

But he offers a compromise. This is the continuation of the existing de facto presbyterian government of the church for three years. That is not enough for Cromwell.

And that is the King’s stand. He will not surrender on this point. On this he is firm.

Now in captivity he writes about this to his Roman Catholic wife, Queen Henrietta Maria who is in France. But she has little sympathy with his “tiresome conscience”. Surely, she argues, any promises he makes need not be permanently binding. And surely it is better in the end to be a Presbyterian King than no King at all. After all, it is not as if he were a Roman Catholic (Christopher Hibbert, Charles I, 1968 p.240)

But the King will not give way. His conscience will not allow him to abandon the Church. He will not renounce his belief, the belief in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

And so he is to die for this, to die, he says, as a “Christian according to the profession of the Church of England.” And a martyr.


REASONS FOR REMEMBERING 
THE KING’S MARTYRDOM
So, I come to the second part of my address. Why should we observe what was Charles’ final admonition - “Remember”? And what is all this to us, in a distant land and at another time?

My dear brethren. The King’s martyrdom is of living significance for this reason. His sacrifice was not only for those who profess the Anglican faith, but all who affirm the Creeds. And while Anglicans may disagree on ceremony and on doctrine, they are united in their support for the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds.

The Constitution of the Anglican Church in Australia contains three Fundamental Declarations. So fundamental they cannot be altered (s.66). They are:-

First, “The Anglican Church of Australia, being a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, holds the Christian Faith as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in particular as set forth in the creeds known as the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creed.”

Second, “This church receives all the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being the ultimate rule and standard of faith given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation.”

Third, “This Church will ever obey the commands of Christ, teach His doctrine, administer His sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, follow and uphold His discipline and preserve the three orders of bishops, priests and deacons in the sacred ministry.”

His Grace the Archbishop of Sydney (Donald Robinson, Archbishop, 1982-93) in 1986, sitting on the Church’s Advisory Tribunal, held that the phrase “the three orders of bishops, priests and deacons... indicates that both ‘the sacred ministry’ and ‘the three orders’ in that ministry are well-known and require no further definition within this Chapter.

“It is not enough to recognize merely some form of ministry, or to preserve the names of the three orders, or three orders of anyone’s devising. ‘The three orders of bishops, priests and deacons in the sacred ministry’ can only be the ministry and orders referred to in the Thirty-Nine Articles (see for example articles 19, 23, 26, 32 and 36) and in the Book of Common Prayer, especially the Ordinal. Just as ‘the canonical Scriptures’ in Section 2 of the Fundamental Declarations depend on the Thirty-Nine Articles for their correct definition (see Section 74), so ‘the three orders...in the sacred ministry’ depend on the Articles and Prayer Book for their correct definition. This definition claims catholic and apostolic, not merely Anglican, status for the three orders. The orders are in fact common to the Anglican, Roman and Orthodox communions. The sacred ministry itself is declared in the Ordinal to have been ‘appointed for the salvation of mankind’, and the orders in that ministry are said to have been in Christ’s Church ‘from the Apostles’ time and to have been appointed by God’s divine providence.’

His Grace concludes:

“There can be no doubt that what Section 3 commits this Church to preserve are these orders in this sacred ministry.”

This is the carefully considered opinion of the Archbishop of Sydney. In it, His Grace points out that the three orders of the sacred ministry are not merely Anglican, they are common to the Anglican Roman and Orthodox communions.

So the reason all Anglicans (indeed all Catholics, Roman and Orthodox) should give thanks for the life and service of the Martyr King is that he stood his ground. He could have surrendered. He could have washed his hands. As Pilate did. Then there would be no Church of England as we know it, as an integral part of that Holy Catholic and Apostolic church. It would not have been only the King who died on that day in January 1649. It would have been that link, the Apostle Succession, which comes to us through Augustine. That line from Augustine would have ended. As well that precious jewel the Book of Common Prayer would not have survived. It certainly would not have made its equally indelible stamp on our liturgy. And It would not have made its indelible stamp on the language and culture of the whole English speaking world. My brethren: we must therefore be eternally grateful to the Martyr King that by his life he saved these treasures for us.


CONCLUSION
I return to that sad, bitterly cold day in London. That day of infamy. The trial had been delayed because of the King’s brilliant and irrefutable argument that the trial is illegal. Cromwell has put pressure on those charged with the execution to sign the Death Warrant.

Its cruel words come down to us today:-

“Whereas Charles Stuart, King of England, is, and standeth convicted, attainted, and condemned of high treason, and other high crimes; and sentence upon Saturday last was pronounced against him by this Court, to be put to death by the severing of his head from his body; of which sentence, execution yet remaineth to be done; these are therefore to will and require you to see the said sentence executed in the open street before Whitehall, upon the morrow, being the thirtieth day of this instant month of January, between the hours of ten in the morning and five in the afternoon of the same day, with full effect. And for so doing this shall be your sufficient warrant. And these are to require all officers, soldiers, and others, the good people of this nation of England, to be assisting unto you in this service.

“To Col. Francis Hacker, Col. Huncks, and Lieut.-Col. Phayre, and to everyone of them.”

And the death warrant bears the signatures of the men whose hands are to be forever soaked in blood:-

“Given under our hands and seals.
John Bradshaw
Thomas Grey
Oliver Cromwell &c. &c.”

And so on that bitterly cold day, the 30th January the King woke between five and six.

“I will get up”, he says to his servant, “I have a great work to do this day. I fear not death, death is not terrible to me. I bless my God that I am prepared.” He speaks with Bishop Juxon for an hour, and then receives the Sacrament. The Second Lesson at Mattins on 30 January is especially relevant. it is the 27th Chapter of St. Matthew, the Passion of Our Lord.

Then he is taken in procession with drums beating to Whitehall. He probably sees the scaffold. It is half past ten. The King waits in his room for the knock at the door which will signal the walk to the scaffold. He waits and he waits. He is to wait until almost two. And why this final torment to the King? Two reasons are suggested. Those to whom the death warrant is directed have then to sign the order of execution. One, Colonel Huncks, loses his nerve. Cromwell intervenes. He shouts at him - he is a “peevish fellow”. But still he will not sign. Cromwell decides to go ahead without his signature.

The other reason is that the republicans forget the elementary proposition that they can kill the King. But they cannot kill the Crown. They forget the law of royal succession expressed in the acclamation: “The King is dead. Long live the King.” The Crown passes immediately on the death of the King to the Prince of Wales. And there is no time to pass legislation to declare a republic. This is to be done later. So they pass a so-called law making it an offence for anyone to proclaim a new king. In this they are to fail dismally. It has no effect. Charles II’s reign begins on that same day, the 30th January 1649.

So, near two o’clock, they finally bring the King to the scaffold.

Divided by ranks of soldiers from the crowds, he addresses some words to those who can hear. He begins by forgiving his murderers. He declares that he has forgiven all the world, “and even those in particular that have been the chief causers of my death: who they are, God knows, I do not desire to know, I pray God forgive them.

“I wish that they may repent, for indeed thy have committed a great sin in that particular; I pray God, with St. Stephen, that this not be laid to their charge. Nay, not only so, but that they may take the right way to the peace of the Kingdom: for my charity commands me not only to forgive particular men, but my charity commands me to the last gasp the peace of the Kingdom...”

He addresses himself to the role of the people: “Truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever; but I must tell you their liberty and freedom consists in having of government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own”.

And finally, he affirms his faith: “that I die a Christian according to the profession of the Church of England, as I found it left me by my father . . . I have a good Cause and I have a gracious God; I will say no more”

Then Bishop Juxon says, “There is but one stage more, which though turbulent and troublesome, yet it is a very short one; you may consider it will soon carry you a very great way; it will carry you from Earth to Heaven; and there you shall find, to your great joy, the prize you hasten to, a Crown of Glory.”

And the King replies, and once more, listen to his wisdom, his grace: “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.”

He now takes off the insignia of the Garter, the last of his jewels; he gives it to the Bishop with the one word, “Remember.”

The King stands for a moment raising his hands and eyes to Heaven and praying in silence, then slips off his cloak and lies down with his neck on the block. The executioner bends down to make sure that his hair is not in the way, and Charles, thinking that he was preparing to strike, says, “Stay for the sign.”

“I will, an’ it please Your Majesty,” says the executioner.

A fearful silence falls on the little knot of people on the scaffold, on the surrounding troops, and on the crowd. Within a few seconds the King stretches out his hands and the executioner on the instant and at one blow severs his head from his body.

A boy of seventeen, standing a long way off in the throng, sees the axe fall. And he remembers as long as he lives the sound that broke from the crowd. (C.V. Wedgwood, The Trial of Charles I, Collins, London, 1964)

“The blow I saw given and can truly say with a sad heart at the instant whereof there was such a groan by the thousands present as I never heard before, and desire I may never hear again.”

Such a groan... as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again...

The executioner seizes the Kings head and holds it up, saying, “Behold the Head of a traitor!”

The cavalry disperse and scatter the people.

The body is taken to Blackfriars. The King’s head is sewn on and the body embalmed.

Cromwell will not allow the body to be buried in King Edward’s chapel. This is far too dangerous - it may become a shrine. The King is buried secretly at Windsor. The use of the Book of Common Prayer is already prohibited by Parliament. No exception is allowed. Bishop Juxon is not permitted even to read the burial service. He carries the Book of Common Prayer with him - closed. He refuses to extemporize in the Puritan fashion.

In that vault lies the body of Henry VIII. On one side, his third wife, Jane Seymour. His sixth wife and widow Katherine Parr was to have been buried on Henry’s other side. But she married again and is buried elsewhere. That is to be King Charles’ tomb.

And so, the King’s body was lowered into the vault in silence.

As Redmond observes, they are strange companions in death: “The King who broke the Church of England from the Roman communion to gain political advantage and to satisfy his sexual appetite, and the King who died because he saw in the Anglican faith the best and purest form of the Christian doctrine and the Church Militant on earth.”

And so on that day of infamy, that day of sadness, and that day of glory, the King goes from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown.

Let us recall the concluding words of the lesson from St. Paul, the lesson which was not permitted to be read at the King’s burial:-

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I shew you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality; then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Charles went, as he said, from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown. He died that the Church might live.

Let us pray (according to the Collect for the Order for Evening Prayer on the 30th January)

“And now, to Almighty and Everlasting God, whose righteousness is like the strong mountains, and thy judgements like the great deep; and who, by that barbarous murder (as on this day) committed upon the sacred Person of thine Anointed, hast taught us, that neither the greatest of Kings, nor the best of men, are more secure from violence than from natural death: Teach us also hereby so to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, and grant, that neither the splendour of any thing that is great, nor the conceit of any thing that is good in us, may withdraw our eyes from looking upon ourselves as single dust and ashes; but that, according to the example of this thy blessed Martyr, we may press forward to the prize of the high calling that is before us, in faith and in patience, in humility and in meekness, in mortification and in self-denial, in charity and in constant perseverance unto the end: And all this for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ his sake; to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end.” Amen.

 

Friday, January 27, 2023

Two 'seed' parables - Pope Benedict's homily for today's Gospel (from 2012)

 


Today’s liturgy presents to us two short parables of Jesus: the parable of the seed that grows of its own accord and the parable of the mustard seed (cf. Mk 4:26-34). With images taken from the farming world the Lord presents the mystery of the Word and of the Kingdom of God, and points out the reasons for our hope and our dedication.

In the first parable the focus is on the dynamism of the sowing: the seed that was scattered on the land sprouts and grows by itself, whether the peasant is awake or asleep. The man sows with the trust that his work will not be fruitless. What supports the farmer in his daily efforts is specifically trust in the power of the seed and in the goodness of the soil. 

This parable recalls the mysteries of the creation and of redemption, of God’s fertile work in history. It is he who is the Lord of the Kingdom, man is his humble collaborator who contemplates and rejoices in the divine creative action and patiently awaits its fruits. The final harvest makes us think of God’s conclusive intervention at the end of time, when he will fully establish his Kingdom. The present is the time of sowing, and the growth of the seed is assured by the Lord. 

Every Christian therefore knows well that he must do all he can, but that the final result depends on God: this awareness sustains him in his daily efforts, especially in difficult situations. St Ignatius of Loyola wrote in this regard: “Act as though everything depended on you, but in the knowledge that really everything depends on God” (cf. Pedro de Ribadeneira, Vita di S. Ignazio di Loyola, Milan, 1998).

The second parable also uses the image of the seed. Here, however, it is a specific seed, the mustard seed, considered the smallest of all seeds. Yet even though it is so tiny, it is full of life; it breaks open to give life to a sprout that can break through the ground, coming out into the sunlight and growing until it becomes “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mk 4:32): the seed’s weakness is its strength, its breaking open is its power. 

Thus the Kingdom of God is like this: a humanly small reality, made up of those who are poor in heart, of those who do not rely on their own power but on that of the love of God, on those who are not important in the world’s eyes; and yet it is through them that Christ’s power bursts in and transforms what is seemingly insignificant.

The image of the seed is especially dear to Jesus, because it clearly expresses the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In today’s two parables it represents “growth” and “contrast”: the growth that occurs thanks to an innate dynamism within the seed itself and the contrast that exists between the minuscule size of the seed and the greatness of what it produces.

The message is clear: even though the Kingdom of God demands our collaboration, it is first and foremost a gift of the Lord, a grace that precedes man and his works. If our own small strength, apparently powerless in the face of the world’s problems, is inserted in that of God it fears no obstacles because the Lord’s victory is guaranteed. 

It is the miracle of the love of God who causes every seed of good that is scattered on the ground to germinate. And the experience of this miracle of love makes us optimists, in spite of the difficulty, suffering and evil that we encounter.







Tuesday, January 17, 2023

S. Anthony of Egypt



Most of what we know about S. Anthony is thanks to S. Athanasius, his friend, who wrote his biography. Anthony was born in 251 at Coma, a village near Great Heracleopolis in central  Egypt, where he grew up in a very protective and well-off family.

On the death of his parents, he inherited a large estate.  Then, in church one day, he heard the words of the Gospel: 'Go, sell what you have and give to the poor' (Matt 19:21).  He took the words as addressed to himself and sold off the whole of the estate, only keeping what he felt he needed for his sister and himself.  Later, he heard the call, 'Do not be anxious about tomorrow' (Matt 6:34).  This led him to give away what he still had, he put his sister in a convent and, still only 21 years of age, became a hermit.  He lived alone, working with his hands, praying and doing religious reading.  He only ate bread with salt and only drank water.  He slept on a rush mat.  He was soon seen as a model of humility, holiness and self-discipline.  He was assailed by many temptations, some very persuasive, during this period but managed to resist them all.

For many years, Anthony lived in a tomb near his birthplace but, at the age of 35, moved to the ruins of an old castle on top of a mountain.  There he lived for almost 20 years, seeing no one except a person who brought him food every six months!  At the end of that time he set up his first monastery, which consisted of separate cells, each occupied by one monk (like the Carthusians today).  But he still lived mainly on his own, only visiting the monastery when necessary.

In spite of his austere life, he always gave the impression of being energetic and joyful.  People could pick him out from among the other monks simply by his cheeriness.  Many came long distances to speak with him.  And he was as ready to learn from them as they came to learn from him.

At the age of 60, during a time of religious persecution, he went to Alexandria hoping to earn martyrdom, but was not arrested.  Later still, he returned to Alexandria to refute the Arians, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ but, in spite of being asked to stay on in the city, he returned to his life as a hermit.

He died about the year 356, traditionally on 17, January.  He is said to have lived to the remarkable age of 105, never having been sick, still with good sight and sound teeth.  He is regarded as the 'Father of Monks'.  Several groups of Eastern monks may still be following his teaching, and he certainly influenced later development of monastic life in the Church.

(The above is from the LIVING SPACE website.)

Friday, January 13, 2023

S. Hilary of Poitiers, 'the Athanasius of the West'.

 


St Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was born into an aristocratic family in Poitiers, Gaul, (i.e. France), and was highly educated. He married and raised a family. In due course his natural curiosity and enquiring mind led him to study the Scriptures. That's when the created order began to make sense to him. No longer able to accept that all things were the result of random acts of nature, he came to believe in a single Creator God. 

Reflecting on his faith journey, Hilary recalls that when he read the Lord's words to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM' (Exodus 3:14), 'I was frankly amazed at such a clear definition of God, which expressed the incomprehensible knowledge of the divine nature in words most suited to human intelligence.' He also discovered God’s power, love and beauty expressed in the Psalms, Prophets and the rest of Old Testament salvation history. He grew to understand God's love for him as a deeply personal reality.

His reading of the Gospels convinced him that Jesus Christ was his Saviour, the Word made Flesh. Embracing the full Catholic Faith, he was baptised about 345 A.D. He was soon ordained, and then elected bishop in Poitiers (against his will!) around 350 A.D.

When the emperor Constantius II attempted to impose Arianism on the western Church, Hilary led a vigorous opposition. He was exiled to Phrygia (in modern day Turkey) in 356. There he became such a defender and champion of orthodox teaching about Jesus that the emperor decided it would be less trouble to let him return to his diocese. Hilary continued to fight against Arianism until his death in 368.


Here is a passage from S. Hilary's On The Trinity XII: 55-56: PL 10, 468-472)

According to the apostle, Lord, your Holy Spirit fully understands and penetrates your inmost depths; he also intercedes on my behalf, saying to you things for which I cannot find the words.  Nothing can penetrate your being but what is divine already; nor can the depths of your immense majesty be measured by any power which itself is alien or extrinsic to you.  So, whatever enters into you is yours already, nor can anything which has the power to search your very depths ever have been other than your own. 

Your Holy Spirit proceeds through your Son from you; though I may fail to grasp the full meaning of that statement, I give it nonetheless the firm assent of my mind and heart.

I may indeed show dullness and stupidity in my understanding of these spiritual matters; it is as your only Son has said: Do not be surprised if I have said to you: You must be born again.  Just as the wind blows where it pleases and you hear the sound of it without knowing where it is coming from or going to, so will it be with everyone who is born again of water and the Holy Spirit.  By my regeneration I have received the faith, but I am still ignorant; and yet I have a firm hold on something which I do not understand. I am born again, capable of rebirth but without conscious perception of it.  The Spirit abides by no rules; he speaks when he pleases, what he pleases, and where he pleases.  We are conscious of his presence when he comes, but the reasons for his approach or his departure remain hidden from us.

John tells us that all things came into being through the Son who is God the Word abiding with you, Father, from the beginning.  Paul in his turn enumerates the things created in the Son, both visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth.  And while he is specific about all that was created in and through Christ, of the Holy Spirit he considers it enough simply to say that he is your Spirit.

Therefore I concur with those chosen men in thinking that just as it is not expedient for me to venture beyond my mental limitation and predicate anything of your only begotten Son save that, as those witnesses have assured us, he was born of you, so it is not fitting for me to go beyond the power of human thought and the teaching of those same witnesses by declaring anything regarding the Holy Spirit other than that he is your Spirit.  Rather than waste time in a fruitless war of words, I would prefer to spend it in the firm profession of an unhesitating faith.

I beg you therefore, Father, to preserve in me that pure and reverent faith and to grant that to my last breath I may testify to my conviction.  May I always hold fast to what I publicly professed in the creed when I was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  May I worship you, the Father of us all, and your Son together with you and may I be counted worthy to receive your Holy Spirit who through your only Son proceeds from you.  For me there is sufficient evidence for this faith in the words: Father, all that I have is yours, and all that is yours is mine, spoken by Jesus Christ my Lord who remains, in and from and with you, the God who is blessed for endless ages. Amen.



Saturday, January 7, 2023

“Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its Saviour in a cave” (S. Basil the Great)



Basil was born in Caesarea of Cappadocia in 329. The persecution of Christians had ceased, but his parents had lived through those difficult times. He studied at Athens from 351 to 356 in order to become a lawyer and orator. But his sister, Macrina, influenced him to embrace a monastic life, and he founded a community. He stayed with them for five years, ensuring that their life was one of mutual love and service. In 367 a famine hit Cappadocia, and Basil sold his family's land in order to buy food for the starving, actively preparing the food himself. In addressing this crisis, he refused to allow any distinction between Jews and Christians. He also built a hospital, housing for the poor, and a hospice for travellers.

Basil was ordained in 362, and became Bishop of Caesarea in 370. The Emperor visited Caesarea in 371 and demanded Basil's submission to the prevailing Arian heresies. The latter refused, of course, leading to an ongoing dispute between the two of them.

His writings deal with the created world as a revelation of the God's splendour. They vigorously defend the divinity of Christ; they also defend the full divinity of the Holy Spirit, who is to be worshipped with the Father and the Son. 

Basil is said to have died from exhaustion at the age of 49 on 1st January, 379. The following passage is from his Homily 2 on the Holy Birth of the Lord (as quoted on pages 39-40 of Celebrating Sundays: Reflections from the Early Church on the Sunday Gospels, compiled by Stephen Holmes, and published in 2012 by Canterbury Press):

"The star came to rest above the place where the child was. At the sight of it the wise men were filled with great joy” and that great joy should fill our hearts as well. It is the same as the joy the shepherds received from the glad tidings brought by the angels. Let us join the wise men in worship and the shepherds in giving glory to God. Let us dance with the angels and sing: “To us is born this day a savior who is Christ the Lord. The Lord is God and he has appeared to us,” not as God which would have terrified us in our weakness, but as a slave in order to free those living in slavery. Could anyone be so lacking in sensibility and so ungrateful as not to join us all in our gladness, exultation, and radiant joy?

This feast belongs to the whole universe. It gives heavenly gifts to the earth, it sends archangels to Zechariah and to Mary, it assembles a choir of angels to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.”

Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its saviour in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Now it is no longer, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return,” but “You are joined to heaven and into heaven you shall be taken up.” It is no longer, “In sorrow you shall bring forth children,” but, “Blessed is she who has borne Emmanuel and blessed the breast that nursed him.” “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; and dominion is laid upon his shoulder.”

Come, join the company of those who merrily welcome the Lord from heaven. Think of shepherds receiving wisdom, of priests prophesying, of women who are glad of heart, as Mary was when told by the angel to rejoice and as Elizabeth was when John leapt in her womb. Anna announced the good news; Simeon took the child in his arms. They worshiped the mighty God in a tiny baby, not despising what they beheld but praising his divine majesty. Like light through clear glass the power of the Godhead shone through that human body for those whose inner eye was pure. Among such may we also be numbered, so that beholding his radiance with unveiled face we too may be transformed from glory to glory by the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and power for endless ages. Amen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

S. John of the Cross - Poet of God's Love

 

Today the Church gives thanks to the Lord for Juan de Yepes, known to us as S. John of the Cross, who was born in Spain in 1542. From the beginning of his life he understood the mystery of love and sacrifice. His father, from a wealthy Spanish family, was disowned and disinherited when he married the daughter of a poor weaver. Then, just after John was born his father died. John’s mother, utterly destitute, managed to keep her homeless family together as they wandered in search of work. When he was fourteen, John got a job in a hospital, looking after patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness.

So, it was in the context of poverty and suffering that he sought to know God. 

In 1563 John took the habit of the Carmelite friars in Medina. The following year he was professed and went to the University in Salamanca to study arts and theology. In 1567 he was ordained to the priesthood, and in the same year Teresa of Avila asked him to help her Reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. 

But many Carmelites and their sympathisers felt threatened by the Reform, and on 2nd December 1577 some members of John’s own order kidnapped him. At the Toledo priory he was locked in a cell six feet wide and ten feet long for nine months, with no light except that which filtered through a slit high up in the wall. During those months of darkness, John could have become bitter, vengeful, or filled with despair at the rejection of his ministry. But instead, he remained open to God, knowing that there was not a prison anywhere that could separate him from God’s love. During this time he had many experiences and encounters with the Lord in prayer. He described them in his poetry. He later forgave those who had imprisoned him, saying, “Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.” 

After nine months, in 1578, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the spiritual poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. He went to southern Spain to join the reformed Carmelites, and devoted his life to helping people discover the transformative power of God’s love. 

The best known of his books are: The Ascent of Mount CarmelThe Dark Night of the Soul and A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ. He is regarded as a great spiritual guide in the Catholic tradition, understanding the reality of God's love in the human experience of light as well as darkness. He is also regarded as a significant Spanish poet. 

St John of the Cross died at the age of 49 on 14th December 1591 at Ubeda as he was preparing for assignment to Mexico. He was canonised in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII, and is a Doctor of the Church.

Here are a few of his sayings:

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.” (From The Dark Night of the Soul)

“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” (From Sayings of Light and Love 64)

“It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.” (From Sayings of Light and Love 110)

“In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.” (From Sayings of Light and Love 64)


THE LIVING FLAME OF LOVE
O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest centre! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life. 

O lamps of fire!
in whose splendours
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love. 


From THE SPIRITUAL CANTICLE
My Beloved is like the mountains.
Like the lonely valleys full of woods
The strange islands
The rivers with their sound
The whisper of the lovely air!

The night, appeased and hushed
About the rising of the dawn
The music stilled
The sounding solitude
The supper that rebuilds my life.
And brings me love.

Our bed of flowers
Surrounded by the lions’ dens
Makes us a purple tent,
Is built of peace.
Our bed is crowned with a thousand shields of gold!

Fast-flying birds
Lions, harts and leaping does*
Mountains, banks and vales
Streams, breezes, heats of day
And terrors watching in the night:

By the sweet lyres and by the siren’s song
I conjure you: let angers end!
And do not touch the wall

But let the bride be safe: let her sleep on!

Go HERE to read the entire poem.