Father Nicholas preached a belter this morning on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. What follows is a mish-mash of his main points embellished a little with my own!
Citing chunks of the Athanasian Creed Fr reminded us that the doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to Christian faith. Meaning we must not neglect it just because it is difficult to fully comprehend; for when the church stops taking theology seriously it invariably falls into heresy and error. As proof he asked us consider the modernists of recent time who justify radical departure from traditional teaching by suggesting the Spirit ‘is doing a new thing’ in order to bring about a new paradigm. Now one only needs a rudimentary understanding of Trinitarian theology to expose the argument as sham. This suggestion of division and contradiction within the Godhead is impossible. The persons of the Trinity are one and God’s truth eternal.
Father then urged caution in making definitive statements about God. These are dangerous and invariably fail, he explained, because they soon lead to our creating God in our favoured image. We select statements which best suit our agendas. Ultimately we cannot know God for he is beyond human understanding. We can only glimpse through a glass dimly at that which he has chosen to reveal. And thus we are wise to obey what has been revealed not ever claim to know his mind. A lesson in humility before God which is so obviously lacking in our current generation.
Father Nicholas then lamented what has been a terribly sad fortnight for Christianity in the U.K. First he pondered that Royal Wedding, held in the presence of the most senior cleric of both the Church of England and Episcopal Church of America. Everyone cheered and smiled, he noted, and took the easy path thus avoiding the difficult but obvious question. How could consent for this marriage be given when the bride is, in fact, already married to another man? Do ’till death us do part’ and ‘for better and for worse’ not mean today what they meant yesterday? And, if so, how can God’s blessing be given on such a union when no annulment has been granted given Christ’s own explicit teaching on the matter? What gives?
Not that Catholics can point fingers regarding fidelity to God’s word given the diabolical vote in Ireland two days ago which now paves the way for the slaughter of innocents. Here again we witnessed a cataclysmic failure to uphold the teaching of the church; this time as regards the sanctity of life. A shame deepened by the inaction and silence of most of the current hierarchy. And who cannot fear that when the Pope now visits Ireland in August the red carpet will be rolled out to cement the ridiculous but populist notion that one can be robustly pro-Catholic but not pro-life. It was a sorry day indeed.
In both the Royal wedding and the abortion vote one witnesses further evidence of an erosion of doctrinal fidelity on behalf of the faithful. The church falling into grave error due to a refusal to do theology and accept the unchanging truth of Christ. How apt then that the wedding sermon, itself massively populist and devoid of depth, centred on a sentimental and whimsical notion that ‘all you need is love.’ What drivel, Father Nicholas suggested, when you consider how crucial a mundane washing machine also is to domestic family life. One needs many things beside sentimental love to make a marriage work. Not least adherence to solemnly professed vows that pertain to lifelong fidelity.
Father Nicholas concluded by suggesting we have reached a pivotal moment. The tide has gone out on Christianity in the West and what is exposed is revealing. The most obvious lesson is that modernist Christianity, the sort that sprang into life in the wake of Vatican II, has proved an abject failure. Touchy feely safe religion, the sort that cosies up to the culture, has killed authentic faith in Christ. A truth writ large in Anglican and Catholic church alike. What good a sacramentalised but uncatachised faithful whose tribal belonging knows nothing of intentional discipleship? What good a timid Christian hierarchy that ever appeases the crocodile in hope it eats them last? The sooner this experiment ends the better…
And what Ireland showed us is that it is drawing to an end. The modernists might have had the ascendency for the last half century, they might hold all the aces in the present. But tomorrow does not belong to them. So as the institutional church all but collapses around us we must embrace that death and prepare for resurrection. That out of the ashes of the failed modernist experiment a more emboldened and authentic Catholicism might once more arise. The reform of the reform suggested by Pope Benedict wherein sound teaching, good liturgy and beauty in holiness combine to forge a renewed but ancient faith for the next generation. Move over tired corrupt liberal hieararchs- true Catholics want their church back.