I was dreaming that I was on a long walk. I came to a house and for some reason, as dreamers do, I just walked through it. The owners didn’t mind as I tramped through their sitting room but as I was lost coming out of the house I asked the owner the directions.
He pointed back to a huge signpost on the corner of the house where I had entered pointing left and right and straight on. But I don’t think the signpost was there before; or perhaps it was. How does the creator of our dreams work out the end before the dream starts and is the truth and the end always in sight and not just in dreams?
The priest at communion told a powerful story. Perhaps an old one but I have not heard it before.
Some rabbis were spared the gas chambers in a wartime concentration camp for one day. They spent the night, their last night, putting God on trial for having deserted them into bondage and death. After a trial of learned disputation lasting all night, they found God guilty.
But as they were led to their deaths they sang out the psalms joyously. But God is not for us a love, his ways are unknowable. I am who I am. But God exists and that is what is important.
A friend of mine told me this story which illustrates how science cannot answer all our questions. Often a scientist can look at a woman on baking a cake, he can use every kind of sophisticated measurement to find out the ingredients of the cake. But no science will tell why she is baking the cake, that it’s for her son’s birthday.
At Mass in the Abbey the priest told a story which sums up my attitude to faith.
A woman went to stay with her cousin. Arriving on Saturday, her cousin asked her if she would like to go to Mass. No, she wanted to go skiing which she did.
The next Sunday she couldn’t go skiing so she did go to Mass. The priest told how in ancient times if a lamb was prone to straying the shepherd might break its leg and carry it for a time. Then it would never stray again.
At that moment, the woman knew in her heart that God was speaking to her. In truth, God may not direct our lives directly but if we look out for them, there are signs everywhere of His presence.
The politician on the television was very irritating, not so much in what he said but in the gulf between the rhetoric and the action. Looking over the waves breaking against the green banked cliffs of Petrie Point was an antidote. Thinking of this later I thought that religion and its effects has three of the four halves. Let me explain.
No doubter, no atheist could doubt that this Petrie Point and the sea at its feet exist. Nor could they doubt the calming pleasant mental effect they evoke. Equally no atheist could doubt that religion can cause similar feelings. They just doubt whether their cause actually exists. Therefore we have four parts and only one of the four is in doubt.
1) Petrie Point and the sea;
2) Contemplation produced of the same is pleasant;
4) Contemplation of the same is pleasant.
Why do we agonise so much about whether God exists? Religion exists. Can we not assume on our contemplation that religion exists and enjoy the feelings it engenders?
I was flipping through channels on the television and came across an American evangelical channel. Of course it was delightfully over the top. Jesus lives and all that. All this is fine for people with belief and certainty but what of the others, like myself? I think we have to concentrate not on religion as a fact but as a means. Not as a finished product but as a journey.
St Agnes, Cornwall
Set at a stunning location, a creek running down to the sea. Old photographs show it as an intensely industrial landscape of miners and shipbuilding. What is the true reality? Industrial past or present quaint beauty?
The talk at the “tube station” church was on the theme of faith. I have always before seen faith as an insurmountable problem. Faith in God, a certainty I lack, but faith as the story from Luke of the foaming of the waters of Galilee as also about having faith that things will be alright and having faith that one can make a difference. That’s about faith in one’s mind, less of a mountain to climb, more knowable. Do not worry about faith in the existence of God, concentrate on faith in your existence.
Our oblate master was telling us how our attachment to “things” just brings unhappiness. He had given away some gold cufflinks someone had given him and a valuable watch.
The trouble is that we all have a thing which we find hard to give up. I may have no interest in smart clothes or watches and am happy to give them up; but maybe I am more attached to political power. Not that I have ever had that either.
So we can be high and mighty saying “things” mean nothing to us, but we all have a thing.
As usual when at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I sought out the 6:30 Mass in the Cathedral. I was told they were about to have their first ever ecumenical service. The Protestant Pastor gave the sermon. It was on the text of Jesus saying we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom of God.
He described the story of two boys climbing a ladder to scale a small cliff. The ladder fell down: a man came up. Jump, he said. One of the boys did, the other did not. Why? Because the first boy was the son of the man who came up. In other words, we have to have confidence and jump into our father’s arms, from whatever height. But he was saying something else. That if we could be more like little children, our problems and dissatisfaction and jealousy would fade away. It seems that this problem of conflict, of comparing ourselves with others is our greatest human weakness.
Next day at Mass the priest was describing how in the war, as a small boy, he had to ride his bicycle without lights because of the blackout. Suddenly he was told by someone or something to stop. By inches he missed an enormous hole in the road left by workmen. The day was the feast of the Guardian Angels. Are they always there? Do we have our own one watching over us? It is a lovely idea.