Monthly Archives: January 2015

Third Week in Ordinary Time


“Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.” (Jonah 3:1)

Strange that Nineveh is where the great cathedral has just been blown up by ISIL.


For some unaccountable reason a bad back started today. I always wonder at this phrase in today’s gospel:

“How can Satan cast out Satan?” (Mark 3:22-30)

But what does it mean?


We went in Strasbourg but just I asked the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on faith schools and British values.

How do “British values” trump the traditional British value – of Christianity?

“Since the law has no more than a reflection of these realities and no finished picture of them.” (Hebrews 10)


I went to a lovely Mass in the seminary at Strasbourg Cathedral. It is lovely in its timelessness of its chant.

“And the priests stand at their duties every day.” (Hebrews 10:11-18)


I had spoken at the Council of Europe on persecution of Christians. The usual arguments. I’m not sure we added anything new but I stressed the need for the technical legal term of “reasonable accommodation” for Christians to have space in Europe where there is no outright persecution but where Catholic midwives for instance need space to abide by their conscience or British Airways staff should be allowed to wear a cross.

Anyway, nothing new but quite a good day. For my sins no doubt however I woke in the middle of the night with a crashing pain in my back and my conscience or something or someone told me to “look after the poor and the dispossessed”. I doubt that I will do it very well. My right-wing convictions often tell me that showering public money on the poor creates as many problems as it solves.


My back was so bad at Mass that I could not get up and the communion had to be brought to me – a foretaste of the future but nice that people think of one.

“Only a little while now, a very little while and the one that is coming will have come, he will not delay.” (Hebrews 10:32)

SATURDAY – St John Bosco

The 10.30 sung Latin mass as beautiful as usual. Today in Hebrews 10 we are told that “only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for.”

Then I have a long way to go. If it is only a question of faith it is easy for some, hard for others.

“And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea ‘Quiet now, be calm!’ And the winds dropped and all was calm again. Then he said to them ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’” (Mark 4:35)

Strange, reading this I have faith that this really did happen and is true.

Second Week in Ordinary Time


The Tudors gave an unparalleled state to men of humble birth – Wolsey, Cromwell, Cecil, all from modest or very modest backgrounds. The parvenu Tudors created the grammar schools, which for centuries have given a step up for the most humble: sons of butchers and blacksmiths (Wolsey and Cromwell, respectively). We went to see the Secretary of State on the parlous state of grammar school funding. We got little out of her except a moan about the size of her budget, but she has shifted resources away from grammar schools, from giving a leg up to the most humble.

Today’s reading from Hebrews 5:1-10:

Every high priest has been taken out of mankind, and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for their sons, and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or wayward, because he too lives in the limitations of weakness.


I spoke in the debate on Holocaust Memorial Day. There is latent evil in all of us, and given the right appalling circumstances, it can rise up in complete barbarity.

Today’s reading from Hebrews 6:10-20 –

When God made the promise to Abraham he swore by his own self, since it was impossible to swear by anyone greater. I will shower blessings on you and give you many descendants.


This week we are celebrating 750 years from the founding of Parliament by Simon de Montfort, so I took the opportunity of welcoming this on a point of order to the Speaker: that if we exist for another 750 it will not be said “you are a priest forever, a priest like Melchizidek of old.” (Ps 109)


I went to the British Museum exhibition on Germany and at the end was accosted by a stranger accusing Eurosceptics of wanting to plunge Europe back into war. I had to explain gently that we were not nationalists.


I was at Saxilby village hall to talk to people about their village plan and in the morning I had a meeting with the Russian Ambassador – a contrast in themes and types.

“Mercy and faithfulness have met
Justice and peace have embraced.”

Or have they?


I went to a town hall meeting at the village of Ingham. Climbing the hill in my car I pulled onto the main road and missed hitting a car on the blind side. Such are the chances of life. A four-year-old girl is reputed today to have been killed by a truck.

The Epiphany

SUNDAY The Epiphany (observed)

The sermon was brilliant. The Magi were probably astronomers. The story reveals that then, unlike today, science and religion were not opposite irreconcilables. The Magi looked to the mathematics of the movement of the stars to try and determine the religion of the universe. The movements proved that reason and logic lay at its heart. The universe is absolutely not a matter of chance, but of reason and law. But Who created the order, the rules? Where did they come from?


I was struck by the Gospel which repeats Isaiah, the Isaiah I had read at Midnight Mass on Christmas night.

“The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light. On those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:17)

This all is fulfilled.

TUESDAY (Proper Epiphany)

We shouldn’t’ve moved the feasts from their proper days to Sundays. Just for our convenience or because we didn’t want to go to Mass on a weekday. This is the Twelfth Night, a holy night. This is when we take down our Christmas decorations.

Actually, we don’t in our family, because we also celebrate Russian Christmas, but there we are.

Lord, accept the offerings of your church, not gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but the sacrifice and food they symbolise: Jesus Christ, who is Lord for ever and ever.

WEDNESDAY Russian Christmas

We all trooped off to the liturgy of Russian Christmas Day. What joy: for the first time, the sermon was in English as well as Russian. We could understand it.

Orthodox sermons make no flabby attempt to persuade: they accept faith, they first proclaim it. The words fall out as a breathless proclamation.


I always think this is one of the most difficult readings to actually carry out.

“Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother is a liar. Since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen. So this is the commandment that he has given us: That anyone who loves God must also love his brother.” (John Chapter 4)

Sometimes, it’s easier to love God than a stranger in the street. I don’t know how holy people do it. They must have some faculty denied to the rest of us to separate their personal prejudices or dislikes from present reality, to love a person as one loves a beautiful flower one has never seen before it is a sort of depersonalisation. Yet acceptance of what is before you or perhaps the way is to see in all people however irritating they might be superficially, some beautiful inner light.


“We accept the testimony of human witnesses, then God’s testimony is greater.” (1 John 5)

But is it? Obviously it is theoretically, but do we believe it? No, because we cannot see it. So we pay lip service to this bold statement but in our heart of hearts we do not accept it, niggling doubts surface and are buried only to return.


John is happy that his star should wane and that of Jesus rise.

“He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.” (John 3:22)

We find it so difficult, it is against our human nature, to rejoice as another gets greater and we grow smaller. Why is that? Obvious on one level. Yet it makes us so unhappy. I think we have, like in the earlier reading this week about loving our brother, to do be positive ourselves, to look at ourselves from outside and to look at others equally, and difficult, impossible perhaps as it is to feel part of them as well as ourselves. I don’t think we can achieve this by some kind of rational thought process; it has to be an emotional or meditative experience, to create an otherworldliness which would take many years and great concentration, perhaps several lives of men, which of course is what Buddhists believe.

I often think they may have a point; that our soul may not be as locked in our physical being as we think.

We went to the White Knights Ball. They raise the best part of £100,000 for charity. This is certainly rooted in the present. But even in this sort of occasion, there is a kind of unity, of dress, of dancing, of having fun of being with others which humans crave.

The New Year

SUNDAY – The Holy Family

We went to Mass in the Holy Rood. Of course, the sermon was perfect. I wonder. They certainly had a hard time of it. Fleeing for your life from Herod, losing Jesus for days in the Temple, seeing your only son executed as a common criminal. And we sometimes think times are hard and we don’t have to live under permanent foreign occupation and carry on trade as a carpenter in a remote, impoverished village.

MONDAY – St Thomas Becket

We walked past the old Water Mill at Walesby, now crumbled into the ground. No doubt a scene out of a Constable picture and climbed to the highest point in the Wolds. A great misty plain stretching out into the distance. They fill this time after Christmas with the feast of martyrs – this one St Thomas Becket. I am reading about St Francis. Two very different saints cannot be contemplated. But both gave up their careers. But would Thomas be remembered if he hadn’t been murdered, probably not.

The collect for today is inspiring:

“O God, who gave to your bishop St Thomas the grace to lay aside all earthly fear and be faithful even unto death, grant we pray at his intercession that your people, disregarding worldly esteem, may resist what is wrong, uphold your rule, and serve you to their life’s end.”

Easy to read, difficult to do.


In Lincolnshire, you can still see a dark sky covered in thousands of stars. Before I go to bed I always step into the garden in the hope of seeing them.

Today’s entrance antiphon from Wisdom 18:14-15 sums the experience up:

“When a profound silence covered all things and night was in the middle of its course, your all powerful word, O Lord, bounded from Heaven’s royal throne.

WEDNESDAY – New Year’s Eve

I arrived for the end of Mass in the Cathedral so I missed the entrance antiphon. How glorious it is:

“A child is born for us. And a son is given to us. His sceptre of power rests upon his shoulder. And his name will be called messenger of great counsel.”

The Cathedral has a midnight service. I went off instead to see the fireworks – the worship of present incandescence rather than future.

THURSDAY – New Year’s Day, Solemnity of Mary

The sun was streaming in through the west window of the Cathedral for this beautiful service. At one of these strange moments during the sermon, I believed: it just made sense that God should incarnate Himself in this way.

“As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:16-21)

FRIDAY – Sts Basil & Gregory

I walked for three hours from Market Rasen station. By 3:30 as one looked west, the sky was a glorious yellow ochre.

The day before I had wandered around the Late Turner exhibition at the Tate. Turner’s late works are like this view of blending white sun filling a hazy yellow sky, all indistinct and pointing to something else.

The collect of today: “O God you were pleased to give light to your church by the example and teaching of the bishops Saints Basil and Gregory.”

SATURDAY – The Most Holy Name of Jesus

“Seeing Jesus coming towards John said ‘Look, there is the lamb of God’.” (John 1:29)

We went to see the film ‘Exodus’. I know it is corny to say so but I found the film inspiring, as everyone who reads the tale of Moses from Exodus finds it inspiring.

I think it is impossible when watching or reading this story not to be filled with a profound love and regard for the Jewish people and an understanding of their trials and mission.