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Custard Pies, Spacetime, Joy and Brexit

Monday, February 11, 2019

Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly One, thy sanctuary!
Your magic binds again
What convention strictly divided;
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides.

Who has succeeded in the great attempt,
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Add his to the jubilation!
Indeed, who even just has one soul
To call his own in this world!
And whoever never managed, he should steal away
Crying from this union!

All creatures drink of joy
At the nature's breasts.
All Just Ones, all Evil Ones
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us and grapevines,
A friend, proven in death.
Salaciousness was given to the worm
And the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, like His suns fly
through the heavens' grand plan
Go on, brothers, your way,
Joyful, like a hero to victory.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss to all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Are you collapsing, millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy!
Above stars must He dwell.

The Anthem of the European Union nonetheless!

Of course, with Brexit looming, the UK’s relationship with the EU is certainly uncertain and complex. These are strange days politically and we face some very strange times ahead. The media is simply oversaturating our lives with stories about what we can expect and this divided media is polarising our country with this oversaturation. We find ourselves divided among ourselves. Media is a house divided; Parliaments is two houses divided; the CofE is a house divided. And when a house is divided, the question must be asked, “how can this house stand?”

Clearly, many of us are affected by these deepening divisions. Ex-patriots are facing a serious blow to their personal identity; companies are being sold cheaply to overseas buyers; the person on the street is worrying about how life can go on as normal after the threat of a no-deal Brexit. And with the noise of the divided media, the problem comes down to this: in facing such an uncertain future, whom can we believe?

How about this?
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

We keep looking at the future and we forget to be ourselves here and now. We lose our existence as beings of the present moment. And in the present moment there can be joy!

My Bishop, the Rt Rev Damien Mead, has to juggle his sacred duties with his secular duties – indeed, he, like every Christian, sanctifies his secular duties by bringing them into God. Like all bishops, his burden is onerous. Yet, I notice he still finds joy enough to take a custard pie in the face all in the cause of charity. Here, in amid the heavy concerns of pastoral duty, there is joy in the present moment.

Our Lord is deadly serious, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. He bids us to be present to Him in the here and now as we stand before Him in the throes of sin, or throes of repentance. Of course, we Catholics do not regard the present moment as a detachment from the rest of Time but rather set within it as an interface between past and future both of which have existence in the mind of God but also imperfectly within our own minds as memory and expectation.

We are faced with demons of the past and of the future which contribute to our regrets and fears constantly and also numb us to our interconnectedness in History. Today, we have such a forensic attitude to History and such a Statistical attitude to what is to come. We always see ourselves as the observers aloof to both the past and to the future until it they both conspire to impact into our daily lives.

Whatever Time actually is, whether it is an attribute of God’s being or a creature as utterly subordinate to the Divine command as we are, whatever its purpose is, perhaps a mechanism whereby we have an arena to understand how we exercise our free-will and imago Dei, it is something which exists for our Good and for the fulness of our Humanity. That’s something we forget. And we allow both our experiences of the past and our hopes and fears for the future to make us who we are, forgetting that it is God who makes us who we are, above the shrill screeches of vanquished Evil.

As Space is to Art and Sculpture, so Time is to Music and Speech.

A Musician presents a score as a spatial representation of a work that has its expression in Time. Likewise, we experience a painting in snapshots of Time as our senses experience it. Time and Space are always mixed within our lives – both produce the canvas for our existence. Our Eternity with God as Creations of God will be this interplay of Time and Space perfected. How we temporal beings are to experience this extra tempore I don’t know. One suggestion is that, in creating Time, God has necessarily entered into Time and thus travels with us as the only One with the roadmap of the future. I’m not convinced by that, personally – it makes God too small.

Indeed, any understanding of God that we have is too small. His revelation to us sets some impression of how our relationship is to work. His changelessness means that His Holiness is changeless and thus the nature of Sin is changeless, so the relationship that we have to God is clear for our limit understanding. Yet, God stands beyond our thinking and has the capacity to do things that we can find incomprehensible. He is more terrifying, more unpredictable, more unknowable than our Future, more challenging, more exacting, more revealing than our Past. And that’s why we have to learn to trust Him.

This period of uncertainty presents us with a single challenge to trust in God, face both past and future and be joyful. We have to rejoice in the Lord alway. The way we rescue our pasts and our futures is by learning to be joyful once more. This may sound very existential as if we were Camus’ Sisyphus, and in some sense we really do have to cock a snook at Evil by daring to be joyful despite what it throws at us. But we do so always in context for we cannot disjoint ourselves from either past or present. To be Catholic means to mourn with the martyrs in their torture and to exalt in their witness to God. We shudder at the dismemberment of St James Intercisus, the disembowelling of St Elmo, and at the appalling choice that faced St Gianna Beretta Molla who chose her death rather than that of her unborn daughter and we remember with joy that these have overcome Evil at the very source. Their agonies are past: their present is an Eternal Now with their Creator.

Our agonies are to come, but we are given time to be with God and develop our trust in Him. No, this is not going to be easy and we are weak. Nonetheless, we trust God even when things seem black and we rejoice – we rejoice as best we can, presenting before God every single little things that He has given us with gratitude and humility. There is always something there, even if it is a single painless breath that we once took ten years ago. Our loved one dies, and yet there is a joy that we knew them at all. We fall into poverty, and there is a joy that we have enjoyed a little wealth at some point. We lose our health, and there is a joy that we once ran and jumped and played with abandon. These joys may exist in the past but, in sacrificing them to God we find ourselves sanctifying them for the joy of every human being, past, present and future that they may share in their joy and we in theirs and all may share in the joy of God which is always Now, Now, Now!

I do worry about how Brexit will affect my family, their growth and education and livelihoods and I have fears for my own future too. However, I intend, with the help of my Creator, to walk through the door that leads into Tomorrow with my head held high and all my hope set on Him and Him alone in His ineffable Eternity. There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance…

So let’s bring on Brexit, and live dangerously trusting in God!

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