Father Philip Writes...
Our Summer Festival - the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Patronal Festival of our parish church is the highlight of August in Mendlesham. I want to consider the meaning of this feast in 3 ways:
1: Life after death; 2: bodily resurrection and 3: our final union with Christ.
Life after Death. In the 1960s a man’s only son was killed in a road accident and the effect was such that his father had a nervous breakdown. The curate visited him frequently, but the father couldn’t accept life after death. His illness grew worse and he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where there was a radical chaplain who didn’t uphold the traditional Christian faith. The distressed patient told the chaplain how kind the curate had been, but said he couldn’t believe there was life after death, to which the chaplain replied, “Don’t worry, nor do I.”
The Assumption speaks of the resurrection of the body as well as the soul. A Norfolk grave digger of over 80 years was digging a grave when the Vicar came along for a chat and asked how deep he dug graves. “Them I don’t like I put down another 2 feet so they’ll be late for the resurrection,” he replied. We know the resurrection of the body isn’t meant in the way that gravedigger implied. It is a bodily resurrection but with a difference. If you were to ask whether your present body is the one derived from your parents, the answer would be yes – and no.
We know Jesus in his resurrected body could eat and was still recognisable to his friends, but he had new powers and could appear and disappear at will. The Church believes Mary was assumed into heaven after her death as it is unthinkable that the body from which Our Lord’s body was derived should moulder in the grave.
She found him when he rose from the dead but lost him when he ascended to heaven. She found him in the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and when she died, her Assumption was her call home to Jesus, never to be lost or parted from him again.
This feast is as much a festival of Our Lord as it is of Our Lady. It is he who takes her body to heaven and he who gives her everlasting life. As Mary said when she was carrying Jesus before he was born, “He that is mighty has done great things for me.”
Each September we observe a feast in honour of the Cross of Christ (14th Sept) and this month I will have been in Holy Orders for 50 years, since I was ordained a deacon. Next year (DV) I will be keeping my golden jubilee of ordination as a priest. In all that time I have been a member of the Priests’ Society of the Holy Cross, so this month I am offering a reflection from the book of Genesis which illustrates one reason why the Cross of Christ is so significant. Genesis has a profound message and this is what is far more important than worrying about taking every word literally.
Adam tried to escape responsibility for what he had done and so often we, too, are afraid. God loves us enough to forgive our sins but wants us to take responsibility for them. It wasn’t God who brought punishment on Adam and Eve; they brought it upon themselves. We are not punished for our sins but by our sins.
This sad scene in Genesis ends with the promise of salvation, for God takes pity on Adam and Eve. He promises them a saviour, when he says,
In other words: Jesus (God become Man) will overcome evil, but in doing so he will be wounded (i.e. the Cross).
Sin is rebellion against God and choosing our own way rather than what is right. It divides each of us in two: part of us pulling with God and the other part pulling against him. God calls, “Where are you?” and says this to you and to me. How do we answer?
Why are people keen to restore our churches? I quote from HRH the Prince of Wales in the book, ‘Lincolnshire Churches Revisited’:
“Despite the fact that in these days they may be redundant owing to declining rural populations and dwindling congregations, they are nevertheless extremely important monuments and a vital part of our national heritage… they were built literally to the glory of God and in a sureness of faith which may seem strange nowadays. The very stones they are built with seem to have a soul of their own… I need hardly say that I believe we must do everything in our power to ensure that these great monuments and symbols of living faith are preserved for generations yet unborn.’
I hope as many as possible will participate on this day.