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15 December 2013
posted by Canon Dakin on 16-12-2013

3rd Sunday of Advent

Some of you may remember that when we celebrated the Sacrament of the Sick in August, I mentioned that I was looking forward to reading a book which claimed to reflect Our Lady’s thoughts towards the end of her life.          I even said that I would tell you about it next year since it seemed possibly to have relevance to us as we are ageing. A few weeks ago I bought the book: The Testament of Mary. I was impressed by noticing that it had been short-listed for a literary prize. The blurb was reassuring. . ‘Beautiful and daring‘- New York Times. ‘A searing, stunning work‘- Independent on Sunday. ‘Lyrical and evocative, and his portrait of the aged Mary is stunningly achieved.‘ -  Daily Mail.  So I set out to read it. In fairness I persevered to the end. Verdict: horrendous, blasphemous, and heretical. Mary, on Calvary, is tipped off by her minder, that the secret police are there keeping her under observation, so before Jesus dies, she is quietly moved off the hill and with John and Martha begins her refugee’s journey to safety. It is a long journey. They steal food and clothes and when finally they reach safety in some backward corner of the country she is constantly harassed by her two minders, John and Luke, a brooding menace, to give them every detail she can remember about Jesus‘ early life. It is only during this time that she learns from John how God had a special interest in the conception of her eldest son - no Angel Gabriel, no Annunciation, no virgin birth. The book simply throws the gospel out of the window. You wonder why ever it was written; what possible motive the author might have had. One thing may be said, I think - that fifty years ago no publisher would have touched it as being offensive to Christian faith and sentiment. They reckon nowadays that Christians are not so touchy - if any of them are left to be effective. A more light hearted illustration of Christian faith - or the lack of it - was given in a letter about a teacher  who  was introducing the children to a carol: Little Baby Jesus. As she began one child called out; That’s a swear word! Then the solo became a concerted chorus: That’s a swear word.  There was no contrary voice.  None of those children it seems, had been taught to say a prayer in which the name of Jesus was used.  For their parents it was an item in their swear cupboard.  I admit that the story of the school children came from Australia - but the Aussies share our culture - - they play cricket rather well.      


Perhaps we are not sufficiently aware of how far our society has drifted from its roots. Once the rhythm of ordinary life was tied to the mysteries of faith as they were celebrated through the year. Now even Christmas is under threat.  Pope Francis has just written his first letter to the whole Church. He insists that we must go beyond mere maintenance.  We are to offer our faith to others to share - and to do that we must go beyond the superficial. It doesn’t mean that we have to be clever with words - it means simply that our ‘Happy Christmas‘  does not reflect a feeling of well-being after a good meal or the pleasure of opening presents but comes from a deep faith in the  love expressed by  the coming to earth of God whose chose to be born as a human child. Gaudete - Rejoice - but let’s rejoice for the real reason.

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