Taste and See: What it’s all about

Detail from Sarcophagus. Musee Arles, Antique. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

O God, whose Only Begotten Son
has appeared in our very flesh,
grant, we pray, that we may be inwardly transformed
through him whom we recognize as outwardly like ourselves.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Alternative Collect for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord

We are called to authenticity in our Christian identity.

For us baptism can be a social ritual devoid of spiritual meaning, a joining of a club with a certain cachet (otherwise why bother) but a club that is self-serving and godless.

Or, for us, Baptism can be a personal response to the love of God, a sincere expression of our desire to live from that love, loving God, loving neighbour: the Baptismal vocation is something we commit to, almost as much as it is something we receive.

We can vary in our approach to Baptism. But for God Baptism is always a self-giving, a further manifesting of the divine will, and power to back up that will, that for us all should be well, godly and good.

Speak Lord: At one with the triune God?

IMG_1624aBaptism of 2,000 Anglo-Saxons on the banks of the river Medway.jpg

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them.

He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

Gospel for Trinity Sunday
Matthew 28:16-20

The command is to unite the peoples of the world with God the Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier; Father, Son and Spirit. Too often sadly this gift is used to distinguish and separate Christians both from one another, according to denomination or Church; and Christians from others of their brothers and sisters in the created order.

This sort of separation of Christians from others has to be distinguished from our  being set apart to be a holy people, in service of the will of God. The one is our honour; the other is to our shame.

Baptism of 2,000 Anglo-Saxons on the banks of the river Medway. Detail of Fresco by Sergei Fyodorov. Rochester Cathedral (c) 2012. Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Sanctified and missioned

DSC03179 Magdala

 

God of everlasting mercy,
who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast
kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,
increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,
that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed,
by whose Spirit they have been reborn,
by whose Blood they have been redeemed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect for the 2nd Sunday of Easter

Easter celebrates Christ’s resurrection and our participation in his life, a participation gifted in Baptism, and sustained by our sharing in the outpouring of the Spirit, and our sharing in the Eucharistic food and drink.

Sacraments work, in a certain sense, just by being performed. They make an objective difference to us. However their power to save is more effective the more we engage with them, drawing on their riches, cooperating with the grace. In the Easter season it is especially appropriate for us to know again the change that the Sacraments of Initiation make to us and others, and to seek to live from them.

Font and church, Magdala, Galilee. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The glory of Baptism

IMG_1623 Baptism of King Ethlebert by St. Augustine

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.
But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:3-4,8-11

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday reacquainted us with the wonder that is the sacrament of Baptism.

St Paul has a profound recognition of what life in Christ/Discipleship is about. We are baptised into Christ, into his death, and so we share in his life.

This is not a simple matter of association, that we become members of the club: it is a matter of identity with him. He lives in us and we live in him. This is his gift – the gift that God seeks to offer to all of humankind.

But it is not achieved in us, fulfilled in us, simply through the pouring of water, and anointing with oil, and saying ‘I baptise you’…

It takes, bears fruit, when we live our ‘yes’ to that gift.

At the time of Paul, the expectation was that this gift was beginning to be lived by a disciple before he or she came to baptism, so that it could be recognised that at least a real and mature desire for the promised gift and change and growth was already there. The was concern to ensure that before the rite, those to be baptised knew Jesus and believed in Jesus and were ready to commit to him, and so ready to enter into baptism and the quality of life that flows from it.

For us, today, mostly it is a bit more complicated. Mostly we were baptised as children, and generally before we knew anything about Jesus and what life in him might be. So the gift is given to us on trust, and it is something we have to grow into, learning in Christ to turn from sin and turn to life, to live compassionate and caring, looking beyond what suits us and what is needed for others; living life now as though now we were in heaven. God’s will be done in us on earth and though we were in heaven.

This is not though something we achieve through our own efforts, but by cooperating with the grace of God. This grace is shared with us in so many ways but mostly in ways we cannot see, or test or measure… it is shared with us really, truly but relies on our trust that what God invites us to he will help us to.

One way of putting this is be that we are encouraged to ambitious for holiness: holiness as demonstrated in love. As St Paul says there things last: faith hope and love and the greatest of these is love.

Detail of fresco by Sergei Fyodorov in Rochester Cathedral (Baptism of King Ethlebert by St. Augustine). (c) 2012, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: source of life

Architectural fragments from Baptistry, paleo-Christian basilica, Cimiez, Nice..jpg

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:3-4,8-11

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds of the glory that is ours through baptism – made one with Christ, members of his Body.

That unity is not pretend or honorary. It is real and it is abiding. No one can take it from us, and it offers us the gift of life eternal. It is a life and a quality of life that we begin to live here, even in our mortal bodies, but it is a life that endures beyond this world and beyond our death here. In Christ we will be raised again, ourselves called into the life of heaven.

  • How is your life today going to reflect and share that glory?

Architectural fragments from Baptistry, paleo-Christian basilica, Cimiez, Nice. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Living Waters

01 pouring waterThe third great symbol which the Church uses in payer at the Easter Vigil is water.

Water is used in baptism, and as a reminder of baptism when baptismal promises are renewed.

O God, who by invisible power
accomplish a wondrous effect
through sacramental signs
and who in many ways have prepared water, your creation,
to show forth the grace of Baptism;

O God, whose Spirit
in the first moments of the world’s creation
hovered over the waters,
so that the very substance of water
would even then take to itself the power to sanctify;

O God, who by the outpouring of the flood
foreshadowed regeneration,
so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water
would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue;

O God, who caused the children of Abraham
to pass dry-shod through the Red Sea,
so that the chosen people,
set free from slavery to Pharaoh,
would prefigure the people of the baptized;

O God, whose Son,
baptized by John in the waters of the Jordan,
was anointed with the Holy Spirit,
and, as he hung upon the Cross,
gave forth water from his side along with blood,
and after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples:
“Go forth, teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
look now, we pray, upon the face of your Church
and graciously unseal for her the fountain of Baptism.

May this water receive by the Holy Spirit
the grace of your Only Begotten Son,
so that human nature, created in your image
and washed clean through the Sacrament of Baptism
from all the squalor of the life of old,
may be found worthy to rise to the life of newborn children
through water and the Holy Spirit.

And, if appropriate, lowering the paschal candle into the water either once or three times, he continues:

May the power of the Holy Spirit,
O Lord, we pray,
come down through your Son
into the fullness of this font,

and, holding the candle in the water, he continues:

so that all who have been buried with Christ
by Baptism into death
may rise again to life with him.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

The images of water reach back to the beginnings of Creation; they punctuate Salvation History, and they drive us forward into new life, our continuing re-creation in Christby his grace and at his invitation.

The waters symbolise birth and death. They signify the radical choice each human being is invited to make – life apart from the one who makes life possible; or life with the One who enriches our lives in unimaginable ways. It should be a no-brainer but often we are damaged goods and we need the repeated offer of the living waters to help us on.

Living waters – Notre Dame, IN. (c) Allen Morris 1998.

Taste and see: life in Christ

font-utrecht-august-2003-073Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.
Here is a saying that you can rely on:

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
If we disown him, then he will disown us.
We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful,
for he cannot disown his own self.

2 Timothy 2:8-13

The passage from Paul’s letter which we heard on Sunday, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminded of the intense identification with Christ that sustained Paul in his mission and discipleship.

Not only an identification in which Paul allied himself with the person and teaching of Jesus, but in which Jesus actively conformed Paul to himself.

Through Baptism, through Eucharist, through all the Sacraments, Jesus seeks to be an active principle in our lives. He gives himself, that we might become ouselves in him.

Even when we are unfaithful, the remedy to our faithlessness and sin is Him. Ever faithful, ever desirous of our well being, he sustains us and draws us home.

Font, Utrecht, Netherlands. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.