The November Pastoral Letter from The Rector
My dear friends,
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
‘In what way is Jesus the way?’
To help answer these questions, I am invoking the help of one of the classic icon-types, known in Greek as Hodegetria, meaning “she who shows the way”. Although it is, to my mind a beautiful image, one should not try to evaluate icons from an aesthetic standpoint. What matters is the window into reality that they offer, or, more accurately, the reality they reveal.
The word icon means an image, a likeness. In Hebrews 10:1 the offering of Jesus is described as the “icon (or true likeness) of the good things to come” by contrast with th sacrifices of the old law which are described as shadows. By definition an icon relates to something else and its function is to be a real communication of that “something else.” Remember that the whole idea of an icon rests on the fact that God united created humanity with himself in sending his Son. Created things in themselves cannot disclose God (even human beings created in God’s image give a distorted sign) but God can use created things as images of himself. Our nature needs signs of God, windows into the heaven we cannot see. This isn’t only true of icons, it’s true of every word we speak about God, every idea we have about God — to the extent they are true at all, they are images, likenesses.
In the Virgin Hodegetria type of icon — and remember the word means she who shows the way, Mary’s own eyes are turned towards Jesus, her child and her saviour, and she is indicating with her hand towards him, an invitation to the worshipper to follow her eyes and her hand, away from herself and towards Jesus. Accept the invitation, follow Mary’s hand and eyes, and we shall be led away from ourselves and towards Jesus. The focus of the icon is the Christ, portrayed, as he has to be, in his humanity. Mary points to the way: the way is her son, the incarnate word of God, who lays down his life for us. Icons are always an invitation to participate.
Another famous icon is the hospitality of Abraham, which is also interpreted as suggesting both the Holy Trinity and Eucharist. The vacant place on our side of the table is an invitation for us to come into the fellowship of the Holy Trinity, by means of holy communion. Why? It is because in the Eucharist, to quote St Paul, “We show forth the death of the Lord until he comes.” Always we are pointed back to Jesus’ Cross. In holy communion we are revealed to be members of the Body of Christ, united to him and therefore to our heavenly Father, and to all others who are united with God in Christ. But it’s through his body, through his humanity. There is no short cut to heaven which bypasses our earthly human natures. It is only as these earthly vessels of ours become united with the humanity of Christ and transformed by it that we embark on the way that leads to the truth and the light.
This is why Christianity is, as Abp William Temple famously observed, the most materialistic of all religions. And that is also why walking the way of Christ is not just a matter of following his example, though that often comes into it, but of allowing him to walk in us. Those wristbands which say WWJHD (What would Jesus have done?) are only half helpful. The real question is “What would Jesus do now — in and through me?” In the first letter of John we read, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” It is because Jesus Christ has been in our world t humankind has seen the Father, but we, men and women transformed by his love, have his image renewed in us so that we can be authentic signs to others as we walk in the only way which leads to truth and life. The Way for Jesus, the way of Jesus and way for us to follow Jesus simply cannot avoid the crisis of the Cross. The Good News proclaimed by the Church is no easy message of universal benevolence or easy optimism in the face of all the evidence. It is rather a message of salvation, of the cost of that salvation to God himself, and of the challenge to us to live out the pattern and implications of that death and resurrection of Jesus in our own almost infinitely varied lives.
I want to leave you with two brief quotations from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. They come from Chapter 37, entitled, appropriately, “On the Royal Road of the Holy Cross.” The first reinforces the point I have tried to make about the inevitability of the Cross. Because we should not understand Jesus as “a” human being, but as humanity itself, his life and way are the pattern for everyone, and his way leads through the Cross to the glory of the Resurrection. The reality of the cross in human life hardly needs to be commented on, but what is really interesting is whether it can have any meaning. If so, quite literally, as the second quotation makes clear, “the sky’s the limit!”
“If you bear the cross willingly, it will bear you and lead you to your desired goal, where pain shall be no more; but it will not be in this life. If you bear the cross unwillingly, you make it a burden, and load yourself more heavily; but you must needs bear it. If you cast away one cross, you will certainly find another, and perhaps a heavier.”
“Why, then, do you fear to take up the Cross, which is the road to the Kingdom? In the Cross is salvation; in the Cross is life; in the Cross is protection against our enemies; in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the Cross is strength of mind; in the Cross is joy of spirit; in the Cross is excellence of virtue; in the Cross is perfection of holiness. There is no salvation of soul, nor hope of eternal life, save in the Cross. Take up the Cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, (Matt 16:24) and go forward into eternal life. (Matt 25:46) Christ has gone before you, bearing His Cross; (John 19:17) He died for you on the Cross, that you also may bear your cross, and desire to die on the cross with Him. For if you die with Him, you will also live with Him. (Rom 6:8) And if you share His sufferings, you will also share His glory. 7”
Your friend and priest Fr. Martin
Information:- Fr. Martin's Back Firstly 'thank you' to all those who have offered their sympathy to me. I have been trying to nurse my back to the other side of Christmas so as to avoid being out of action during the run up to and possibly even over Christmas - however - the epidural pain relief hasn't worked in the way that was hoped and so events have rather taken over as pain levels have increased and therefore, with encouragement from Church Wardens I have asked the consultant at the Horder to fit me in as soon as possible. I have a disc which is pressing on the nerves in the spine. (The op is to cut away some bone in the vertebra to release the pressure). I don't have a date for this as I write.
Remembrance Sunday 9th November
Holy Cross Please note that the Parish Eucharist this day will begin at 10.00 a.m. and the family Worship at 11.15 .m. At 3.00 p.m. there is The Service of Remembrance for the town to which all are invited - this will take a slightly different form this year in the hope that it may be a little more accessible to younger people.
Isfield The service of Remembrance will begin at 11.00 a.m. rather than the usual service time of 10.00 a.m.
Little Horsted keep their normal time of 11.00 a.m.
Keeping faith with Loved ones departed
6.30 p.m. Sunday 16th November This annual memorial service is for anyone who wishes to come along and give thanks for and remember a loved one who has died. Within the worship as we renew our hope in our faith in the Resurrection won by our Lord for us, there will be an opportunity to light a candle and also to receive a gift from the church. We will also be inviting the friends and relatives of those whose funeral we have been involved with over the past twelve months. If you know someone who may wish to come please do invite them.
United Worship for the Churches of Uckfield Holy Cross Church 6.30 p.m. Sunday 23rd November Once again we welcome brothers and sisters in Christ from across the area to join with us for this joint act of worship. Please come and share in this with us.
Youth Club for 7-11's Having sent flyers home through our Church Schools and Rocks Park we welcomed 11 children to our first meeting in the Belmont Centre on the first Wednesday in October - they had a wonderful time learning some circus skills and playing various games and joining in a number of organised activities -two weeks later, they brought with them friends and had told others and some 28 children filed through the doors. Thank you to everyone who has supported this work.