Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The s word

When I did my training in spiritual direction, attendance to talks would fade away to about 50 per cent attendance towards the end of term, however worthy the subject. A talk on sex was announced and there was full attendance. For the prurient the talk was a disappointment. Watching the film Yentl last night the old priest asks ‘where does strength come from? The student replies- from controlling his passions.’
Teaching on sex in the Western Christian tradition seems to range from the unhealthily repressive to the down right libertine. St Augustine, the wisest of men, does get a bit self punishing on the subject after the excesses of his youth ( blimey they were not that bad!! )
St John Chrysostom, from roughly the same time, seems far more balanced. He stresses the importance of remembering the human nature of Christ ( and the Church at his time was riven by heresy that did not. )

We know that at times life becomes a battlefield as the spiritual and the physical aspects struggle for supremacy. Yet it would be wrong to say that the spiritual aspect should defeat and destroy the physical; rather we want harmony between the two. Our physical wants and desires should not be ignored; rather they should be satisfied within the framework of morality which the spirit dictates. We should understand Christ in a similar way. It is not a question of his divine nature conquering and destroying his human nature; rather he revealed how human flesh and blood can live in perfect harmony with God.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Old school ties

I have a had a little exchange of emails lately about going to the school reunion. I have been to the last two but my problem is that not having really enjoyed secondary school, nor thrived there, and having had a bit of a checkered career I always feel a bit ill at ease. I listen to the stories of success and know what big pensions some of my old school pals are on. 
One particular boy I met barely acknowledged me although I went through primary and secondary school with him. He had done well in architecture and was obviously rather pleased with himself. God forgive me but I found him rather pompous.

I found the people who had struggled in life more interesting and especially those who had had some major setbacks like severe illness. They seemed more accessible and empathic. Even though they may not have had a walk of faith they had experienced suffering and therefore had the capacity to sympathise. Mercy cannot exist apart from suffering St Augustine wrote.

The dramatic changes that age has made to my old school colleagues reminded me of a  quote from that other theological heavyweight,  Bruce Willis ‘Life is hard and then you die.’

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound Psalm 4.7