A Time to Speak; A Time to Keep Silence

I have learned a valuable lesson during the past few days: it is sometimes wiser to allow misunderstandings to proliferate rather than try to set them right. You may wonder at that. Surely, we have a duty to speak up in defence of right? On the whole, I would agree, but twice in recent days, when the post-chemo brain fog has been at its foggiest, I have realised the uselessness of any intervention.

The first was a minor matter on Facebook: a thread about the headship of the Commonwealth which was misunderstood by some as being about the succession to the throne. I tried, vainly, to explain the difference but withdrew from the conversation when I saw how violent and ill-informed some of the comments were. I daresay some were actionable; certainly they presumed a knowledge of the characters and personal lives of those they discussed that I very much doubt any of them had!

The second was, and is, the much more troubling matter of Alfie Evans and his treatment. I have read what I can, and thought and prayed. I would like it to be a simple matter, but it isn’t. I am made very uneasy by what appears to be the suppression of some salient facts (e.g. that Alfie has breathed on his own for some 30+ hours since the life-support was switched off, not just 3 minutes), by some of the underlying assumptions (e.g. on one side that he is ‘brain-dead’ so his life does not count; on the other, that an infinity of NHS resources can be lavished upon him) and by the wild accusations being made by some people (e.g. that a Fentonyl injection is to be given to kill him). There is also the disgraceful barracking of medical and nursing staff at Alder Hey. The plain truth is that I don’t really know what is going on, and in that I am not alone. I suspect very few people do know what is really going on since only a handful are aware of all the facts and have the necessary legal and medical understanding to assess them. Even so, mistakes can be made: experts are not omniscient, and how could a parent ever be indifferent to the suffering of his own child?

Where does that leave us this morning? I think it leaves us on our knees, with a tiny child struggling for life, unaware of the furious battles being raged over his head. There are no words, only a silence that must embrace everyone involved — a silence that proceeds from the bruised heart of God himself.

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Christmas 2014

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Today the Word has become flesh. Once God has spoken, no further words are necessary; so, today in the monastery, there is silent wonder and hushed adoration, but because we never quite accept that our own words are not needed, there is also one of the longest and most exhausting liturgies of the Christian year. The paradox is more apparent than real. The mystery of the Incarnation is so vast that we must tug away at it, see it from this side and from that, struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible. It is easy to forget that God has made it simple for us. He has come among us as a baby — helpless, vulnerable, His mighty speech reduced to an infant’s piercing cry. He cries out for love and compassion, healing and forgiveness, tenderness and pity for all His children. The questions is, will we answer? Will we answer God as He desires? What gift will we lay at the crib today?

May your Christmas be bright with love and joy, given and received. You are in the prayers of the community here.

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