Sunday, 20 June 2004

weekend columns

Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times about Holy places on a path that leads to the love of God. He starts from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets and Little Gidding. Some of what he says:

Holy places are significant, for they are places which have a power to point beyond themselves, and challenge us, and raise questions about meaning, and purpose, and what the life we have been given is for and how we are to use it. They are always, of course, ambiguous.

God cannot be imprisoned in holy places, any more than the mystery of God can be pinned down in words and concepts. Yet places where prayer has been valid, the places of witness to the faith and of martyrdom, are powerful. They naturally become places of pilgrimage, for they are “thin” places, places where men and women are conscious of the intersection of the timeless with time.
Christianity is a religion of incarnation, in which the Word of God becomes flesh, embedded and embodied in the world. Yet this world which God chooses to know from the inside is a world which in its created reality already points to his presence.
Through that same Word all things were made. Incarnation is the fulfilment of creation. It is from that reality that the sacramental power of place derives, just as the sacraments which incorporate us into God’s new creation, the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Eucharist are the very stuff of creation.
Faith is distorted whenever an abstract idea replaces the God whose overflowing love holds all things in life and reaches out in self-giving. The disengaged, remote first cause of Deism is a negation of the God revealed in Jesus Christ as creator, redeemer and sanctifier, whose life we are called to share. It is that God who can find us in holy places, be they cathedrals or simple, village churches, desert monasteries or islands such as Iona. They call us out of the stress, muddle and conflict of our lives “to be still — to let go — and know that I am God.”

In the Guardian Jonathan Bartley writes that God goes to Brussels. An extract:

It is a safe bet that among the one in six Euro-electors who voted to “take their country back from Brussels” there were quite a few churchgoers. Why should the opinions of the man or woman in the pew be distinguishable from anyone else’s - even when it comes to the question of whether God should get a name check in the preamble to the EU constitution?
Nonetheless, there is a strong argument that the very concept of a European community is essentially a Christian one, with its roots deep in the biblical narrative. The story of the Tower of Babel suggests that the existence of separate nations can be seen as a consequence of sin. Humankind had concentrated power in one place in a challenge to divine power, so God confounded them with a sudden diversity of language, and they scattered and divided.
On the Day of Pentecost, however - when the church was born - those divisions of language disappeared as everyone heard the disciples speaking in their own tongue. A new community came into being, whose identity centres on citizenship of a kingdom that takes precedence over every nation and state. Now, as Paul said, “there is neither Jew nor Greek”. A key word the New Testament writers apply to the church is ekklesia , a secular term that suggests a political community.
Christians have since fallen into the error of aligning their religion with national loyalties. Secular leaders, too, have used Christianity to establish a coherent national culture. But Christian eschatology - the perspective that considers the ultimate destiny of the world - challenges such thinking. Rather than looking back to an imagined golden age when religion was central to the national psyche, the Christian vision of the future involves nothing less than the abolition of the nation state.

Christopher Howse writes about a Lucky strike on a building site.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2004 at 9:56 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion