I belatedly wish my readers a happy New Year. The Christmas Octave is over and we celebrate the octaves of St John, the Holy innocents, and then the Vigil of the Epiphany with the octave of St Thomas of Canterbury. The Feast returns in force with the proper Preface and Communicantes, this time with greater solemnity than Christmas. It is a very beautiful feast that brings me fond memories of processions in York Minster to the smoke of incense and the strains of O’er the hill and o’er the vale.
1. O’er the hill and o’er the vale,
Come three kings together,
Caring nought for snow and hail,
Cold and wind and weather;
Now on Persia’s sandy plains,
Now where Tigris swells with rains,
They their camels tether;
Now through Syrian lands they go,
Now through Moab, faint and slow,
Now o’er Edom’s heather.
2. O’er the hill and o’er the vale,
Each king bears a present;
Wise men go a Child to hail,
Monarchs seek a peasant:
And a star in front proceeds,
Over rocks and rivers leads,
Shines with beams incessant:
Therefore onward, onward still!
Ford the stream and climb the hill:
Love makes all things pleasant.
3. He is God ye go to meet:
Therefore incense proffer:
He is King ye go to greet;
Gold is in your coffer.
Also Man, He comes to share
Ev’ry woe that man can bear;
Tempter, railer, scoffer:
Therefore now, against the day
In the grave when Him they lay,
Myrrh ye also offer.
Unfortunately, I am unable to find a recording or even the tune we sang it to.
I have been quite discouraged over the past few days with the prevailing conversations about “one true churches” and why the Church we belong to is the wrong one. I have offered some comments on this blog about the question of Western Orthodoxy. Though sympathetic to the idea, many of the Facebook threads bring a feeling of nihilism when thinking about those to whom religion is some kind of addiction. I have also allowed myself to criticise some of the “converts” to Roman Catholicism whose religion is truly a burden to be laid on the backs of others.
As Americans freeze, Europe is being swept by gales and heavy rain. It is the dead of winter as we are still only days after the Solstice, a time of year when I almost wish that humans could hibernate! Pundits of all kinds offer predictions for 2018, and they are hit-and-miss as always. 2017 saw the deaths of several I have known, and 2018 will see the 90th birthday of my father and the 60th of one of my two sisters. A year can be short or very long, and everything can change in that span of time. I am apprehensive, but still seek the grace of Christian Hope.
I am not one for New Year Resolutions, but I feel that one must be made. Why are we Christians? What does it bring us? What can we answer to someone like Nietzsche who saw the unredeemed-ness of Christians?
I think that we can look around ourselves and see what we can do. I am fortunate to be a priest, and thus can offer Mass and continue with a ministry of dispelling both crass and invincible ignorance by education. All Christians can pray, can say the Divine Office in their own language and convey that originality of Christ in his essential mission and message. The gift is too precious to abandon or give up, even in this world of ignorance and hatred.
We live through many things like the dawn of the nineteenth century, the aftermath of the French Revolution, the dawn of the twentieth with the brief light of neo-Romanticism before the hecatomb of 1914. Again, a century later, and we still live under the shadow of the atomic bomb and the loss of all Christian and Enlightenment culture to both secular and religious barbarianism. A few of us try to emulate the example of those who lived, wrote and thought two hundred years ago and one hundred years ago. The same lesson needs to be taught each time – Beauty will save the world.
I ask your prayers, that this may be my true resolution and purpose of my ministry. I ask each and every one of you to be bearers of beauty and hope in this barren, frozen and windy desert.