Canon Andrew Neaum
I suppose I should begin this gentle letter to you with the conventional greeting: “Happy Easter”. May you indeed have one such.
Butterflies and Moths
In a recent talk to us at St Augustine’s on the subject of Story Telling Rachel Neaum quoted from a story that has hugely affected her thinking, her choices at university and her life..... “In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” she said, “the travellers stop at an island at the end of the world. An old man lives there and they ask him who he is, ‘I am Ramandu,’ He replies, ‘and I am a star at rest.’ ‘In our world,’ says Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.’ And Ramandu replies, ‘Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.’”
The imaginatively faithful are those who are concerned not so much with what the world is made of, (though of course that is interesting and important enough), as they are with what the world is. They are focussed upon the world’s meaning, purpose, beauty and joy especially as envisioned through art, ritual, music, liturgy, theology, poetry, story, the imagination. All of which deal with realities as real if not more real than what is simply material.
Do come along and join us on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve and Easter Day! These liturgies articulate what lies at the very heart of the Christian Faith, truths to live by and which can break the heart with their beauty and significance. They are wonderful, ancient, symbol-laden liturgies that allow the butterfly of Easter happiness as well as the soft moth of Good Friday sadness and poignancy to alight upon us and add the weight of glory to our existence.
Lawyers jots and tittles
I have been dealing with lawyers lately, all to do with Margaret’s estate. They seem very fine and capable people. Lawyers get a bad press in the New Testament but in those distant times and places lawyers were not at all what they are in our society today.
However I notice one thing about lawyers and their profession that is very different from me and mine. They are unashamedly precise and meticulous in totting up their fees. I was required to sign an agreement with them that took me back to the jot and tittle of the sweet King James version of St Matthew’s Gospel. (Fine words jot and tittle. The jot derives from the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet, the iota. The tittle originates in something even smaller, the dot on top of the letter “i”, or for that matter any accent or distinguishing mark over a letter.)
In my agreement with these lawyers the different fees charged for the services of every member of the law firm were minutely detailed. The firm’s senior partner claims so much per hour that I sincerely hope he doesn’t have anything to do with Margaret’s estate. The firm’s secretaries lay claim to a far more modest sum and so I trust that they will do most of the work! Postage, phone calls, fax charges ($2.00 a page outgoing, $1.00 a page incoming), photocopying ($1.00 a page), bank fees, duties and taxes, all are listed, and it is further noted that GST will apply to many of these charges as well. Real jot and tittle stuff.
Daftly different and foolish
How glad I am that there is no such tittling and jotting in my own professional life. Priests are not paid to be calculating. My faith and my parishioners (the best of them at any rate) do not expect me to offer my services only where it is likely to bring rewards to the Church and parish. When the phone calls me to the hospital, my parishioners as well as I myself would think very poorly of me if I refused to go, even in the middle of the night, to dispense God’s grace, with grace and for no pecuniary reward at all. Much of my work involves listening to and taking seriously the feckless, the poor and the needy and it brings no material benefits at all, not even bottoms on pews. This is the daftness, the difference, the foolishness of God. I revel in it, as do those many parishioners who lavish so much time upon the Church and its work, I hope.
Last week I was persuaded to watch Zeffirelli’s 1972, absurdly lush, sentimental, hippified and yet wonderful film about St Francis of Assisi called, Brother Son, Sister Moon. Francis appeared mad to his family and friends in the extremity of his love of God and his happiness with no material possessions. My heart went out to him and to his ilk. I loved him for it because I really do profoundly aspire to the daftness, the difference, the foolishness of God. To be so thoroughly out of step with the world of supermarket Easter Eggs and Hot Cross buns which are emptied of any significance other than profit and gluttony and are on sale as early as January, is to be out of step with the false god of unhappiness, Mammon, and helps make room for a happy Easter indeed.
See you all on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve and Easter Day!