The Rector writes …
Saint Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Ephesus was that “knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God” (3:19). From the moment of our baptism we are set on a journey which should lead us to a deepening communion with the Godhead. The Church’s liturgical calendar guides us through an annual cycle by which the great mysteries of Christian faith are kept before our minds and hearts. Because the central Figure in these mysteries reigns eternally with the Father, transcending time and space, every liturgical action is nothing less than “the intersection of the timeless moment” (T S Eliot). This means that each celebration of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost (or any other of the round of festivals) has a unique quality and offers a particular opportunity. Now that we have moved beyond the Christmas season it is right that we should ask ourselves what we have learned from this past Advent and Christmas? What fresh insights have we gained into the person of Jesus Christ? How has our Christian faith grown through the past six weeks?
This Sunday’s Gospel passage records the “first of the signs given by Jesus” and ends with the words “he let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him”. What took place at a marriage in the Galilean village of Cana was, of course, a gesture of understanding and kindness (the wedding banquet could continue uninterrupted) but the sign value had a greater significance which was not lost on the newly-called disciples. Wine was recognised as bringing joy; here, it is provided in abundance: a wedding feast had long been seen as a foreshadowing of the life of heaven; here, God provides all that is necessary. At this early stage the disciples do not really understand who it is they have agreed to follow. Unlike us, they had no theological definitions to work with – all they knew was that this Man who had called for their allegiance was unlike anyone else they had ever met: they sensed their destiny lay with him. At Cana the disciples were confirmed in the rightness of their initial decision to walk with Jesus: it will not be until Pentecost that they will truly recognise that “in his body lies the fulness of divinity, and in him you too find your own fulfilment” (Colossians 2:9) but, for now, it is enough that the evidence clearly before their eyes shows that have discerned rightly.
The Catholic understanding is that although 2,000 years separate us from the Biblical events, we do stand in relationship to Jesus in ways which relate directly to the experience of the first disciples. Saint John summed up their common experience: “something that has existed since the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes: that we have watched and touched with our own hands” (1John 1:1). Through the sacramental and liturgical actions of the Church each of us can echo exactly those same words if, by faith, we are prepared to read the signs that Jesus gives and discover him intimately close. “You have shown yourself to me face to face, O Christ, I find you in your sacraments” (Saint Ambrose). There are many reasons why we are expected to be at Mass every Sunday but not the least is that;” above all, the self-communication of God for our salvation, through the Word of God which does not merely testify to a distant God but brings about his actual presence, has its sacramental climax in the Eucharist” (Aidan Nichols OP).
It may not be easy to live a Christian life in contemporary society with its noisy admixture of relativism and indifference, but within the life of the Church we have the resources we need throughout the human pilgrimage – every grace necessary is there for the asking. We need to take to heart other words of Aidan Nichols: “the world is never the same again after the celebration of a sacrament”. The problem for most of us is that we are not deeply enough engaged in the sacramental life – we are not drawing as we should on the nourishment that is offered us.