Friday, 26 February 2010
What is the world, then? You ought not to imagine it as something sinful and tangible. The world, explains St. Macarius of Egypt, is the veil of dark flames that surround the heart and shut it out from the tree of life. The world is everything that holds us and satisfies us sensuously: that within us which has not known God (John 17:25). To the world belong our desires and impulses. St. Isaac the Syrian enumerates them: Weakness for wealth and for collecting and owning things of different kinds; the urge for physical (sensuous) enjoyment; the longing for honour, which is the root of envy; the desire to conquer and be the deciding factor; pride in the glory of power; the urge to adorn oneself and to be liked; the craving for praise; concern and anxiety for physical well-being. All these are of the world; they combine deceitfully to hold us in heavy bonds.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Take remarks without grumbling: be thankful when you are scorned, disregarded, ignored. But do not create humbling situations; they are provided in the course of the day as richly as you need. We notice the person who is for ever bowing and fussily servile, and perhaps say, How humble he is! But the truly humble person escapes notice: the world does not know him (I John 3:I); for the world he is mostly a "zero."
(After her death, one of the nuns in her convent wondered what they would say about her as to her she had done nothing notable. A Doctor of the Church was seen as a 'zero'
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Refrain from busying yourself, therefore, with charity bazaars, sewing meetings and other such occupations. Busyness over many things is, in all its forms, chiefly a poison. Look within, examine yourself accurately, and you observe that many of these apparently self-giving deeds spring from a need to deafen your conscience: that is, from your uncontrollable habit of satisfying and pleasing yourself (Romans 15:1).
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has accused the Labour government of conducting a "systematic and unrelenting attack on family values". The attack came as Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy, a practising Catholic, claimed religious faith has a role in British politics. Mr Murphy said in a lecture that Labour best represents people of faith.
I had to read the above several times before moving on. Murphy cannot possibly believe this can he? Before anyone sees this as a right wing endorsement, I'm no fan of any party, Thatcherite laisez faire capitalism has been hugely damaging and laid the foundations for our current financial crisis
But Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic accused the government of "undermining religious freedom". And a spokesman for the Scottish National Party said Mr Murphy was guilty of "crude electioneering" by trying to "corner the market regarding people's faith".
Albeit Mr Salmond has done a fair bit of wooing the Catholic vote saying nice things about Catholic schools, but SNP voting on issues such as abortion is as bad as the rest.
A tangible example by the government over the last decade that it acknowledged or endorsed religious values would also have been welcomed. Mr Murphy focused on the key part "values voters" can play in the election when he delivered the Progress lecture in London on Tuesday evening. He argued that faith values have always been "at the very foundations of the Labour Party".
I went to some trouble to go home to try and get Forsyth out (an arch Thatcherite) in the days when Labour had a concern for social justice and society. Those days are long gone and even hardcore Labour supporters here are finally realising this.
In his lecture, the Scottish secretary said: "In the US, faith has long played a central part in politics. Not surprising for a country where 60% of people say that God plays an important part in their lives. "But it's wrong to think that it plays no role in British politics." The MP for East Renfrewshire added: "Faith voters massively outweigh 'Motorway Men' or 'Worcester Woman' or any other trendy demographic group identified by marketeers."
He also told the audience that like faith, the family was "another force for good" and "the most important thing in our country".
Why aren't your party supporting it then?
The minister added: "As well as providing a supportive intellectual environment, it's a potential source of financial support in difficult days."
Supportive intellectual environment, the intellectual bit is the most important is it? True colours shown, like the Thatcherites before them, it's money that counts.
His comments were in contrast to the stated attitude of former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell. Despite former prime minister Tony Blair's strong religious faith, Campbell famously said: "We don't do God". Mr Blair himself said he had avoided talking about his religious views while in office for fear of being labelled "a nutter".Jim Murphy said religion was at the "very foundations" of the Labour party. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland, welcomed Mr Murphy's "recognition of the role played by faith and religion in society".
But he added: "A tangible example by the government over the last decade that it acknowledged or endorsed religious values would also have been welcomed.
There aren't any.
"Instead we have witnessed this government undertake a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values. This is a charge I personally put to Gordon Brown when we met in 2008 and I have seen no evidence since then to suggest anything has changed."
English Bishops take note....
Ironically, Mr Murphy had been due to mention the Cardinal by name in his speech by saying: "When the Cardinal speaks, people listen."
Conservative leader David Cameron recently spoke of the importance of his Christian faith, while acknowledging that it grew "hotter and colder by moments". He said he did not have a "direct line" to God and did not pray for guidance from the almighty. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has said he did not believe in God. However, he later added he had "enormous respect for people who have religious faith", that his wife is Catholic and that his children are being brought up Catholic.
A spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Politicians are fully entitled to declare their personal testament, as the first minister has done and indeed would encourage others to do so. "However, it is quite a different matter to make any suggestion that a political party should seek to corner the market regarding people's faith."To do so would be absurd, unreal, and bear the hallmarks of crude electioneering, which would backfire rather badly. "The reality is that people of all faiths and none support the different parties in Scotland, and that forms part of the vibrant political system we have."
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "Jim Murphy is taking the Labour Party into dangerous territory when he calls on it to make a special play for the religious vote.
It wouldn't be a BBC article without Terry. Who was that dreadful Rabbi on BBC with Ed Balls this morning?
"His personal religious enthusiasm may be blinding him to the facts. It is no longer the case that clerics can dictate the way their congregations vote.
Until very recently most of their congregation could not vote. Now most of them cannot be bothered, see no choice or see the governements like this one ram through legislation most of the electorate do not agree with.
People are too independent-minded now to be herded into the voting booth by religious considerations alone."
Oh give me a break...
The explanation is to be found precisely in our unwillingness to persecute ourselves. We overcome after a fashion, perhaps, our serious and dangerous vices, but there it stops. The small desires we freely let grow as they will. We neither embezzle nor steal, but delight in gossiping; we do not "drink," but consume immoderate quantities of tea and coffee instead. The heart remains quite as full of appetites: the roots are not pulled out and we wander around in the tanglewoods that have sprung up in the soil of our self-pity.
Monday, 22 February 2010
The holy Fathers' counsel is to begin with small things, for, says Ephraim the Syrian, how can you put out a great fire before you have learned to quench a small one? If you wish to set yourself free from a great suffering, crush the small desires, say the holy Fathers. Do not suppose that the one can be separated from the others: they all hang together like a long chain or a net.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
In December I managed to see Depeche Mode, who I had wanted to see since my twenties! A lot of their material is on the big stuff of life, love, life, death, regret, redemption
Enjoy the Silence -(Video here, as embedding disabled)
Words are very unecessary, they can only do harmThe video has imagery with a nod to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince.
"On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." ("It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.")
Friday, 19 February 2010
Still another piece of information the saints offer on the way: you should see yourself as a child who is setting out to learn the first sounds of letters and who is taking his first tottering steps. All worldly wisdom and all the skills you may have are totally worthless in the warfare that awaits you, and equally without value are your social standing and your possessions.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
THE new life you have just entered has often been likened to that of a gardener. The soil he tills he has received from God, as well as the seed and the sun's warmth and the rain and the power to grow. But the work is entrusted to him.
If the husbandman wishes to have a rich harvest, he must work early and late, weed and aerate, water and spray, for cultivation is beset by many dangers that threaten the harvest. He must work without ceasing, be constantly on watch, constantly alert, constantly prepared; but even so, the harvest ultimately des wholly on the elements, that is, on God.
The garden that we have undertaken to tend watch over is the field of our own heart; the harvest is eternal life.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
THE holy Fathers say with one voice: The first thing to keep in mind is never in any respect to rely on yourself. The warfare that now lies before you is extraordinarily hard, and your own human powers are altogether insufficient to carry it on. If you rely on them you will immediately be felled to the ground and have no desire to continue the battle. Only God can give you the victory you wish.
This decision not to rely on self is for most people a severe obstacle at the very outset. It must be overcome, otherwise we have no prospect of going further. For how can a human being receive advice, instruction and help if he believes that he knows and can do everything and needs no directions? Through such a wall of self-satisfaction no gleam of light can penetrate. Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight, cries the prophet Isaiah (5:21), and the apostle St. Paul utters the warning: Be not wise in your own conceits (Romans 12:16). The kingdom of heaven has been revealed unto babes, but remains hidden from the wise and prudent (Matthew 11:25).
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Way of the Ascetics for Lenten reading.
IF you wish to save your soul and win eternal life, arise from your lethargy, make the sign of the Cross and say:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Faith comes not through pondering but through action. Not words and speculation but experience teaches us what God is. To let in fresh air we have to open a window; to get tanned we must go out into the sunshine. Achieving faith is no different; we never reach a goal by just sitting in comfort and waiting, say the holy Fathers. Let the Prodigal Son be our example. He arose and came (Luke 15:20).
However weighed down and entangled in earthly fetters you may be, it can never be too late. Not without reason is it written that Abraham was seventy-five when he set forth, and the labourer who comes in the eleventh hour gets the same wages as the one who comes in the first.
Nor can it be too early. A forest fire cannot be put out too soon; would you see your soul ravaged and charred?
In baptism you received the command to wage the invisible warfare against the enemies of your soul; take it up now. Long enough have you dallied; sunk in indifference and laziness you have let much valuable time go to waste. Therefore you must begin again from the beginning: for you have let the purity you received in baptism be sullied in dire fashion.
Ignatian spirituality is my second love following a wise Irish priest's spiritual direction just before being recieved into the Catholic Church so I'm going to do this as well.
Sunday, 14 February 2010
Despite BA changing it's policy, the court case has run longer than 'Friends' (the TV series) and the new missal translation saga put together. As usual, the winners are the lawyers who have run up fees not that far short of RBS's losses. The losers, are of course you and me, the courts having decided to give the green light to other companies who fancy following BA's lead.
Christian airline employee loses cross ban appeal
A Christian British Airways (BA) employee has lost her appeal against a ruling which allowed the airline to stop her wearing a cross at work.
Nadia Eweida, 58, wanted the Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling that she had not faced discrimination.
In 2006 she went home after failing to reach a compromise with managers over the visible display of the plain silver cross on a chain around her neck.
The following year the airline changed its uniform policy.
Lord Justice Sedley, giving the ruling of the court, said her case of indirect discrimination was defeated by BA's case on justification.
He said: "This case has perhaps illustrated some of the problems which can arise when an individual asserts that a provision, criterion or practice adopted by an employer conflicts with beliefs which they hold, but which may not only not be shared but may be opposed by others in the workforce.
"It is not unthinkable that a blanket ban may sometimes be the only fair solution."
Lord Justice Sedley said Miss Eweida is a devout practising Christian who worked part-time as a member of check-in staff since 1999.
She made complaints about incidents between 2003 and 2006 which she claimed showed anti-Christian bias on the part of BA.
Human rights group Liberty said in a statement that the appeal court had upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal's (EAT) "startling" judgment of November 2008.
It found that banning Ms Eweida from wearing a cross was not discriminatory because Christians "generally" do not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.
Corinna Ferguson who represented Miss Eweida, said: "This is a disappointing judgment that will do little to build public confidence in equality laws protecting everyone.
"But this is just the sort of case that a Supreme Court is for and we have every hope that the highest court in the land will put Britain's long tradition of religious tolerance into modern legal practice."
A spokesman for the airline said: "British Airways is very satisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, which yet again confirms that British Airways has acted appropriately and lawfully in relation to Ms Eweida."
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, said the failure of the appeal would lead to further cases of religious discrimination.
He said: "I believe it is not an exaggeration to say that people of faith are facing particular hardship in a period where different freedoms and rights are being tested against each other."
In 2004, the airline scrapped a high-necked uniform and introduced a new one, which could be open neck and prohibited the wearing of any visible item of adornment around the neck.
It introduced an amended policy in 2007 which permitted staff to display a faith or charity symbol with the uniform.