Warning, promise and a TV collection
TWO pictures I was seen in my house recently. An icon of descent to hell has been a high priority on my dining table since Easter. I find Christ's journey among the dead between his death and resurrection one of the most moving parts of the Easter celebration every year.
The first people Christ pulls out of the prison of death are Adam and Eve, which seems to me to be a particularly generous gesture.
It is beautifully researched in an anthem ("It is accomplished! Blessed Jesus") by William Maclagan:
In the hidden areas of darkness
If a light shines that has not been seen before,
If the lord of the dead and living
Enter the low door.
Lo! in the spirit, rich in mercy
If he comes from the world above
Preach to souls in prison
Message of his dying love.
The other picture is from my parents. It's a photo I took of them against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. I prefer everything I have on art bookshelves. Both are fine, in seclusion, in the Yorkshire village where I grew up. You have spent fifty years helping this congregation: my mother recently drove the community center reconstruction project and over the years my father has repaired many village installations. Well, I'm happy to say that people shop for them.
During the outbreak, the litany interrupted each day Common worship: Daily prayer. It is an outpouring of intercession that appears right at the moment. Since Easter, the congregation at my college, Corpus Christi, has been praying together over the Internet. I have been struck by a line in intercession for the Eastern Flood: "Let us recommend the world in which Christ rose from the dead to the mercy and protection of God." It could easily be a disposable line, but it is at the heart from Easter: This world is now one in which the resurrection in Christ began.
From the BibleA line from the Sermon on the Mount struck home: "Not everyone who says to me: Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21 ). It mainly serves as a warning of complacent religious self-confidence, but I also see it as a promise: if people endanger their lives out of love for their fellow human beings, it is good to know that those who live as Jesus shows will become theirs Find a place in his kingdom
Since we are separate from each other, we are more aware of the bonds between us than ever: not only between friends, family and colleagues, but also in our daily service, to people who do not spend a lot of money on their work – for example of delivery drivers and shop staff.
The past few weeks have also been the first when I really felt that the street I live in is a community that I belong to. This is partly because of a group that I joined to run errands for the house, but also because we see each other in our daily practice or work in our front gardens. All of this sent me back to John Lancaster's 2012 novel Capital, which with enormous warmth and sympathy records the interwoven life of the residents of a street in London with their shop in the corner.
When it comes to theological readingI will not miss the opportunity to recommend a few short anthologies of the two theologians that mean the most to me: An Augustinian synthesis, edited by Erich Przywara, and The Human Wisdom of St. Thomas: A Breviary of Philosophy, published by Josef Pieper .
I don't watch a lot watch TVor a lot of films, but I like series from the USA like The West Wing or Six Feet Under. Apart from that, my view tends towards opera or contemporary ballet – but under the current circumstances, I recommend that we laugh well with Fawlty Towers. I also recorded a podcast: Music Student 101 from Birmingham, Alabama, who works as a lively dialogue between two moderators through swaths of music theory.
A piece of music In the first Easter days the Missa Salisburgensis is played in all available recordings, a mass that was almost certainly written for the Salzburg Cathedral by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) at the end of the 17th century. It consists of 53 parts with two choirs, each with eight voices and lots of brass and timpani. I don't know of any other piece of music that fits perfectly with his spirit of Easter joy and victory.
Otherwise, I have a Beethoven year because it includes the 250th anniversary of his birth. I will not think alone that his 16 string quartets are an unmatched achievement. The cycle of recordings that currently come from the Quatuor Ébène is great. I tried to complete a book on the theological meaning of life elsewhere in the universe. One thought that got around in my head is that whatever else may be there could not diminish the importance of Beethoven's achievement in writing for only four string instruments.
Canon Andrew Davison is a Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Science at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow in Theology and Dean of the Chapel at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
Next week: Paula Gooder.
"Completely in your will"
Pastor Michael Counsell, who died in 2015, was the author of 2000 years of Christian prayer and occasionally wrote articles in the Church Times. In 2012 he chose a prayer and wrote:
Frick collectionThomas Cromwell, a portrait of Hans Holbein the Younger, from 1532-3Not many of us could claim to be experts in the history of the Reformation. When I saw the piece A man for all seasons from Robert Bolt and then the film, I felt convinced that Sir Thomas More was a saint and Thomas Cromwell, who brought about his execution, was a villain.
But now that I've read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring your body up, I realize that life is not that easy. These novels tell the turbulent story of Henry VIII's reign. From Cromwell's point of view, as if he were telling the story himself. More was a good man, but not without mistakes; I now see that Cromwell was ruthless in what he saw as the welfare of the king and the country. I'm looking forward to the third book in the trilogy to learn how Cromwell himself was executed.
(The book is now published, of course: The mirror and the light (4th booth, £ 25; Church Times Bookshop, £ 22.50).)
Then I rediscovered this prayer and gasped for the calm with which this complicated man faced his end:
O Lord Jesus, who is the only one
Health of all living men and the
eternal life from those who
die in your faith; I give myself completely
in your will; be sure of that thing
cannot perish what is committed
for your mercy. . . O Lord, in
I lay your hands on my soul
Most people have to face some difficult decisions in their lives, and in retrospect, most of us would admit that some of them were the wrong decision and hurt others that we had not intended. We can learn from Cromwell's example to throw our good intentions, the harm we have done to others, and our eternal soul to God's mercy. We can be sure that if we repent and trust in God's love, which was revealed to us in Jesus Christ, he will forgive and bring us to a blessed eternity.
We can never deserve heaven, and if we try to earn it through our merits, we are guilty of the self-centeredness that lies in the heart of sin.
So what did Cromwell mean when he said that "the thing that is committed to your mercy cannot perish"? I think he had two things in mind: his good intentions in his life and the immortal soul that God had given him
. . .
He offered his good intentions to God, knowing that God could bring good things out of a disaster. Most of all, he praised his soul for God's mercy and trusted that divine compassion could even overcome the guilt he had suffered.
It would not harm either of us to learn this prayer and to say it often so that we are ready to say it on our deathbeds.