Sunday 1st January 2017 – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
I go to the 9.15 Mass in Caistor, then as usual watch the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna, looking at the sheep gently traversing the valley beyond.
I have a New Year’s Resolution of occasionally interpreting the Bible … let’s see how long it lasts, so here it goes with Genesis 1 from the Jerusalem Bible. All faults and missing interpretations are mine:
God created the entire universe from the beginning.
Before His Spirit moved, there was only darkness.
He created light by His will and this pleased Him.
In the first phase, God divided Heaven from Earth and light from dark.
God divided land from water. God created seas and earth.
It was God’s will that Earth produced vegetation and plants from seeds.
He created trees from plants.
Thus the third phase ended.
God created every star and man used them to number his days.
God created sun and moon for day and night to light the Earth.
And so passed the fourth phase of his creation.
God creates countless living creatures for land and sea and air, every kind of walking and winged creature.
God let them multiply endlessly and so ended the fifth phase.
God created every species on Earth, domestic and wild and every reptile and all this pleased God by its rightful place.
It was God, by His will, who made man in His image and made him master of the fishes in the sea, the birds in the sky, the cattle and the wild animals and everything that walks upon the earth.
God made man and woman in his image.
God blessed all his works and he let them reproduce. He gave to man all seed-bearing plants and all living things to be his food and foliage for the wild animals. God saw that all this worked and so ended the sixth phase of his creation.
Thus everything on Earth was complete, by the seventh phase of his creation God could rest and this day he made holy, because all his work was now done.
This was the origin of the entire universe.
MONDAY 2nd January
I walk from Claxby to Nettleton.
As I walk back, it is nearly dark and in a clear sky Venus is in conjunction with the Moon and Mars, the first two are clear, the third not yet. The sky to the East is a brilliant array of yellows on an absolutely clear winter’s day.
“All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God
… sing a new song to the Lord, for he has worked wonders”.
TUESDAY 3rd January
I am still reading the Dalai Lama’s spiritual autobiography and A Beevor’s book on the 1944 Ardennes offensive. The brutality of the latter appalling and such a waste, particularly the shooting of prisoners. The Dalai Lama’s message is simple; all religions are equally valuable, stick to your own, nurture it, encompass the world in love. Love all those not just friends or family; simple but not easy.
“His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him”.
WEDNESDAY 4th January
I go to mass in the Cathedral and am struck by the Gospel, John 1:35-42 when John first encounters Jesus, who says “‘what do you want?’ They replied, ‘Rabbi – where do you live?’ ‘Come’, he replied, ‘and you will see’”.
If any one of us had been alive at the time, would we have carried on with our old ways first, would power or riches in Rome have seemed important? We would have been consumed with curiosity to follow Jesus, to see his miracles, to hear his Sermon on the Mount, above all to witness his death and resurrection. But knowing now that all these things happened, we are half-hearted in our faith. Most of us can barely be interested to take any interest at all, but it is the most important thing to ponder on. Even now some realise this, drop everything and follow him.
THURSDAY 5th January
The Gospel today is about obeying one’s conscience:
1 John 3: 11-21
“If we cannot be condemned by our conscience, we need not be afraid in God’s presence”.
An appropriate reading for the film we saw today: ‘Silence’ about two Jesuit priests during the Japanese persecution of Christians. All of us will ultimately betray our conscience if we are tortured enough in body or spirit, or if we see our friends being tortured. Some betray their conscience very easily indeed, even in a free society. I regret of course I have been a Minister for so short a time, two and a half years out of thirty-three and a half years as an MP, but I don’t regret obeying my conscience.
Of course, for us all this is easy. If faced with torture or death I wouldn’t last a moment; but then my faith is so weak, my doubts so great. It is, of course, absurd to criticise someone for their faith, yet alone persecute them, when one’s own beliefs are based on such insubstantial, subjective criteria.
FRIDAY 6th January
We go to Russian Christmas Eve Mass in Chiswick – a beautiful service, the ceilings and walls now being painted with traditional iconography. A little bit of Russia in Chiswick.
SATURDAY 7th January
The Russian church is too packed even to enter so we go down to the crypt where it is quiet and empty and I sit behind a monk praying in front of the Iconostasis.