Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
Holy Week(click to download PDF)
CAFOD Lent Fast Day Appeal—March 2015(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
“Our century is probably more religious than any other. How could it not be, with such problems to be solved? The only trouble is that it has not yet found a God it can adore”. These words, as apt now, as they were when written to address a Europe recovering after the Second Word War, come from the pen of Pierre Teilard de Chardin (1891-1955) a remarkable Jesuit who was renowned for his contributions to both palaeontology and geology. His attempts to harmonise his scientific expertise with his theology meant that for many years he fell foul of the Catholic Church and was not allowed to teach in its name, but subsequent popes like St John Paul 11 and Benedict XV1 have acknowledged their debt to his insights and a papal spokesman said recently: "by now, no one would dream of saying that he is a heterodox author who should not be studied”.
Certainly Teilard's views on evolution (as they evolved!) need careful handling, and his understanding of original sin does not do justice to the Church’s magisterial teaching, but the mystical vision he lays before us, in probably his greatest work "The Phenomenon of Man" is worth our attention. He looks into a future where humanity has evolved ultimately into a complete reunion with the Risen Christ, and in which every aspect of the creation - animal, vegetable and mineral - has been re-formed as a direct consequence of the Paschal Mystery. As a scientist he can write with absolute conviction of the material order in a process of transformation and (as Cardinal Avery Dulles, a fellow Jesuit, comments) “Teilard correctly identified the connection between the Eucharist and the final glorification of the cosmos”.
I hold no particular brief for Teilard (his ideas are way beyond my own field of comprehension) but in this one aspect I find him compelling. If we take the Incarnation with the seriousness we should and realise that God in Christ actually steps into the material creation, becoming part of the fabric of the universe, and if Christ’s passion and resurrection are the fulcrum on which that same universe is poised (as we believe), then perhaps we can put into context something recorded by Saint Matthew at the moment of Jesus’ death: “at that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom: the earth quaked: the rocks were split” (27:45). From the earliest times there have been those who have wanted to “spiritualise” the Paschal Mystery in such a way as to evacuate it of its fundamental meaning but the Gospel is clear – the Christ who came in the flesh, died in the flesh and rose to new life in the flesh – he did not abandon the creation in dying but rather filled it with a fresh dynamism.
The conclusion that Saint Paul draws is that: “when this perishable nature has put on perishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true … so let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Generations before the birth of Christ, the great prophet of the Messiahs’ approach, Isaiah, had conveyed God’s message: “now I create new heavens and a new earth” (65:17): this fresh creation stems from the Easter experience and it is marked by both continuity and change. Saint Peter could write: “we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead” (Acts 10:4), while Saint John can add: we have heard, we have seen with our own eyes and touched with our hands the Word, who is life (1 John 1:1). The same John in his final Revelation was enabled to see: “a new heaven and a new earth: the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now … then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘now I am making the whole of creation new’” (21:1).
What this Holy Week is about is the liturgical celebration of the Lord’s passion and death: its consequences continue to “flame out like shining from shook foil” (Gerard Manley Hopkins) and will reverberate until the end of time, gradually embracing every aspect of created existence and re-fashioning it in the likeness of Christ’s glorified body. What a vison of hope God has shared with us. In the midst of such appalling suffering on so many sides and with each of us carrying so many doubts and fears, Christ’s cross stands “at the still point of the turning world” – God’s language to those who will understand, and the effective means by which the whole universe is being re-made.