Once again we approach the commemoration of the Birth of Our Lord, the closing of another year and the beginning of the next and so it behoves me to offer a few words for reflection.
2015 was a good year for the Holy Celtic Church, a year in which we have seen considerable numerical growth with several ordinations and consecrations and although we do not keep count of the number of people attending services and events we are quite sure that each ordination or consecration results not only in the spiritual advancement of the one who has dedicated his life to God but also in great blessings to his family and friends and all those to whom he ministers. We now have almost forty clergy ministering in 14 different countries on four continents: Europe, North and South America and Australia. Additionally, the Holy Cross Benedictines of Adoration and the Holy Celtic Order of the Temple also continue to attract members. We have a strong online presence and skype prayers each Sunday also help to strengthen the bonds of fellowship between us. Happily Mons Bruno and I have been able to welcome several Church and Order members here at St Gall’s Retreat this year and we also caught up with old friends and new on our annual pilgrimage this autumn.
Here at St Gall’s we are now approaching one of the busiest times of year, but one nevertheless when the silence of this valley is amplified by the stillness of ice and snow, so winter naturally recalls us to enter into the heart of God, rekindling the sacred flame of love within. A couple of weeks ago I posted this wonderful quote from Louis Claude de Saint Martin "The only initiation we need is to enter into the heart of God so that the heart of God will enter into us” and it met with great approval from our online community, which is not so surprising really because it really does hit the nail on the head, just as does a similarly well known quote from St Clement of Alexandria, “The Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.” In other words, bringing both quotes together, God became man, entering the heart of our human experience, so that we might have the opportunity to enter into the heart of God, through the human heart of Jesus. In the baby Jesus we see the humble, vulnerable, unconditionally loving heart of God who draws us into that same experience of humility, vulnerability and love, if we let him.
However, ... just as this year has been one of blessing and innumerable graces for our little church, for the world and particularly for our Christian brethren in the Middle East, this has truly been an “annus horribilis”, as Her Majesty the Queen once said. The shock of seeing people beheaded, and burnt alive in cages on our TV screens leaves us sad, disgusted and angry, but perhaps not as shocked anymore, for now that we have seen these atrocities with our own eyes we can't "unsee" them. To hate the perpetrators would be natural and in some respects just, yet as Christians we are also constantly called to grapple with the hard saying of Jesus to “love our enemies”. What can this possibily mean in our present deplorable situation?
Secondly, Jesus does not intend that we condone or excuse the enemy’s actions or the belief system which inspires it. I believe that He calls us to acknowledge and respect the humanity of our enemy; to ever remember that the enemy hurts, just as we hurt, and he is made in the image of God, just as we are. This truth should not only prevent us from killing him unnecessarily, it should also free us from carrying round the baggage of hate, which is an exceedingly heavy burden for anyone to bear.
Thirdly, we may profitably look to the often ignored example of Jesus himself who, if the Gospel record be reliable, did not hestitate to violently chase the money changers from the temple and also recommended that “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” (Luke 22: 36) It took a couple of centuries for the early Church Fathers to thrash out just war theology but they got there in the end and thank heaven for that, because had they not, Christendom would not have survived very long. If our more “liberal” co-religionists continue to insist on living in their “Coexist” cloud-cukoo-land then let them, but let us be clear that there is nothing Christian about their philosophy. It is actually a betrayal of everything their ancestors fought for and more importantly a betrayal of their descendents who will have to live with the consequences of their foolishness.
So, this Christmas, when we say "Peace and Goodwill to All", we can say it with our hand on our heart and with no fingers crossed. We do indeed wish peace to all, but we also recognise that sometimes we have to fight for it. Fasten your seat belts for 2016 and may God grant us victory and peace, in equal measure. Blessings on all Christendom.
Peace in the Cross of the Lord,
+Alistair OSBA (csr)
Presiding Bishop & Abbot