Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
St Cyprian (the brightest light of North African Christianity could write around the year 250) “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honoured with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God … to delight in the joy of immortality in the kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends”. Saint John provides his own vision ofwhat heaven is like in his Apocalypse: “I saw a huge number impossible to count of people from every nation, race, tribe and language: they were standing in front of the throne”. There is so much sadness and badness around us at present. The news, day after day, is depressing, puling us down, making us question our humanity – why is there so much that disturbs, that is cruel, that is just plain evil going on all sides?
In inviting us to celebrate the memory of the saints – and particularly, in our case, on Friday of this coming week our own Saint James - the Church wants us to raise our eyes – to catch a glimpse of eternity – to help us to realise that there is so much more to this life than there appears to be: unseen, but vibrantly, vitally alive, all around us is another dimension. Sunday by Sunday we profess belief in our communion with the saints. We accept that those who have gone before us in faith and now share their eternal reward are still intimately bound to us here on earth: they are part of our life, they support us, and they intercede for us in the hope that one day we shall experience what they now see and experience. They will not rest until their vision is ours. It was Therese of Lisieux who said that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth, and, thank God, that is what the blessed are doing – much good on earth. They are our friends – always busy on our behalf.
The saints do not just hold out the hope of a future glory: their existence is a challenge to each one of us in our present life’s circumstances. Those in heaven show us that it is possible to live a holy life on earth. Again, it was Saint John who wrote: “what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed, all we know is that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is”. The examples set in their varying ways by the saints demonstrate that holiness of life is achievable – that sanctification is within our grasp – if that is really what we want, and we are prepared to open ourselves to the grace which flows from the Holy Spirit. If we truly do aim to join those already in heaven, we will not be disappointed.
Our Saint James is the special protector of seminarians, equestrians, furriers, tanners and pharmacists (you learn something every time you read this newsletter!) and, of course, has a particular symbiosis with the people of Spain. Why this should be so is not wholly clear. One tradition claims that he preached the Gospel to the Iberians before returning to Jerusalem where his martyrdom occurred in the year 44 (the only one of the Apostles whose death is recorded in the New Testament): another tradition is that his body washed up on the Galician coast and was buried secretly at Compostela to be discovered in time for the Apostle to spearhead the long campaign for the unification of the nation. “Santiago y cierra Espana” “(Saint James strike for Spain”) was for many centuries the cry of the Spanish armies - paralleled perhaps by Shakespeare’s’ Henry V: “for Harry, England and Saint George”! If these notions do not sit easily with contemporary ideas, nevertheless, we see that the saints through the ages have been recruited to help in issues of freedom and justice. Our communion with those gone before us is not some dreaming escapism, rather an ongoing commitment to the establishment of the Kingdom of righteousness and peace on this earth.