Has God Failed to Keep His Promise in Syria?

How different today’s first Mass reading, Isaiah 54. 1–10, seems when read in shortened form at the Easter Vigil, yet the promise it contains is one and the same. The Lord does not forget; he has joined himself to us in an everlasting covenant. If that is true, then it is true in the streets of Aleppo and the dark corners of Yemen as well as in the peaceful, well-nourished households of the west. Our problem is that we do not see it like that; we feel that God has failed in some way to keep his promise, and we are angry and disconsolate. We blame God for the tragedy, for all the misery inflicted on those he claims to love.

One of the uncomfortable truths with which Advent confronts us is this: God relies on us to fuflfil his promises — most spectacularly, when he relied upon the consent of Mary to be the Mother of God, but also, less spectacularly, when he relies upon us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and do good to them that hate us. We may think that we can do nothing to help the people of Syria or the starving children of Yemen, but in fact we can do a great deal. By living as we ought to live, with integrity and generosity, by being peace-makers in our own circle, by cultivating an unshowy sense of mutual support and kindness, we contribute to the store of good in the world and undo much that human malice and evil attempts. It is easy to dismiss this as pie-in-the-sky-idealism, but as G.K. Chesterton remarked long ago, it is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it is that Christianity has never been tried. We cannot silence the guns, perhaps, but we can create a climate of opinion in which the guns cannot be fired.


Holy Saturday 2016

Holy Saturday: the day out of time when, in silence and stillness, earth awaits the Resurrection; the day without sacraments, when our churches are cold and bleak and we know what it is to be without Christ in our lives; the day when we do nothing because God does all. And then comes the night, brilliant with light and warmth, when Christ breaks the bonds of death, and everything is changed for ever.

Here are two posts from former years which say something about Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell:

Holy Saturday 2015

Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell


Resurrection | Easter 2014

Symbolic representation of the resurrection of Christ: sarcophagus, c. A.D. 350
Symbolic representation of the resurrection of Christ: sarcophagus, c. A.D. 350

This morning finds Quietnun and me a little ragged after having spent ten hours in the Accident and Emergency Department of our local hospital. It may have been the first time anyone had read through the whole of the Easter Vigil there. It was certainly the first time two Benedictine nuns had done so, and although it wasn’t exactly how we had hoped to greet the Resurrection, crowded on benches, watching one emergency after another stream through the doors, it did remind us of something we tend to forget. Jesus comes to us where we are, not where we would like to be. To him, the A & E suite is as sacred as a basilica, because it is there that he finds his children; and we all know his special tenderness towards the sick and dying. He redeems us from our sins, not from our (largely illusory) misconceptions about ourselves and our own wonderfulness. He comes to us as Saviour and stoops to our need, our real need, not any imaginary need. Above all, he comes to us, not as an abstraction — the Resurrection — but as a person, the Risen Christ. In the face of such great love and mercy, what can we say but ‘alleluia’?


The Paschal Triduum 2011

Easter WordleTonight we begin the most important part of the Christian year. The whole week has been full of surprises, stretching our understanding of time and space. Now, as we go deeper into the mystery, the liturgy is a sure guide to what would otherwise be overwhelming. The three days are one; just as the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ are one salvific act; and we must take our part in each. We must taste the bitterness of our own sinfulness if we are to relish the sweetness of our salvation. We must make the journey from death to life.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper will remind us of Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist and in the Priesthood. It will remind us, too, that the priesthood of the New Testament is one of loving and humble service. We shall accompany Christ to Gethsemane, kneel beside him during the dark hours of doubt and dread; feel the betrayer’s kiss on our cheek; endure the long, long night of questioning and abuse.

On Good Friday the liturgy will revert to a very simple, ancient form. We are in a world without light, without sacraments. There is only the bleak narrative of the Passion and the prayers, piling up like the waves of the sea. As we creep towards the Cross we carry with us the burden of a lifetime’s sin, sin that has been nailed to that Cross and forgiven with the death of our Saviour.

Then comes Holy Saturday, empty, still, silent as the tomb. We are waiting, waiting. On Easter Eve, when the new fire is kindled, we share in the explosion of life and joy that is the Resurrection. The Exsultet dares to say what we cannot: ‘O happy fault . . . O necessary sin of Adam’. Only one word can express our joy, and throughout the Easter season we shall sing it over and over again, ‘Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.’

May your celebration of the sacred Triduum be blessed. We shall keep you in our prayers.