Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday of Trinity

31st Aug 2012


Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity Year C

 

“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted”.  Luke 14.10.

 

 

It’s a strange and compelling coincidence that in the same week that the British government has lost a motion on a decision for military action in Syria, the poet Seamus Heaney has died. We might well imagine a world of difference between the life of a poet and that of a politician. But we judge on what must be the case of the matter. It is typical for most people to consider politicians as above all practitioners of a dark and devious art. But this of course is not always the case. We equate politics with deviousness. But that is not always the way it is. But most people would find it harder to consider the life of a poet, and of what kind of person they imagine a poet to be and of what kind of life they might live. There is no one template. But the possibilities are endless. The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny described Heaney on behalf all the Irish people. He said “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as people”. He was a Catholic Irishman from Londonderry and yet he was every Irishman. A citation he was given in 1995 for The Nobel Prize for Literature read “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”. Our former poet laureate, Andrew Motion commented that to read Heaney’s poetry was to “feel the benediction of his kindness”. The actor Liam Neeson has said that with the death of Heaney “Ireland had lost a part of its soul’.

 

Only a humble man could be given such accolades. Only someone, who spoke the truth, as we all understand it in its most profound sense. In today’s Gospel we are given the simple figure of the instruction in humility. It is the parable of the invitation to the wedding banquet and of two pieces of advice, the first one is to the guest to take the lowest seat, so that he may be called higher. Secondly there is the advice to the host, instructing him to invite those he would never imagine inviting, the poor, the lame and the blind; in other words beggars who could not re-pay the invitation in kind. On its own the parable would be quaint were it not for the context in which it is being delivered. Related as it is to the life of Christ and his Gospel message, it becomes for the Church a parable for the values of the Kingdom of God. The earthly banquet equates to the heavenly banquet as the occasion which sees the gathering in of those who have been invited to the feast, the place in which the divine and the human life finds its place of understanding and rest. But this parable also has ‘teeth’. For when Jesus teaches the values of the Kingdom, and where this parable points to the quality of humility, so a strong and searching light is cast on those types of behaviour where human pride is to the fore, and where there is recourse to take, if needs be by an act of greed, or force or vanity, the higher place where we may assert our own right to be ‘on top’, our own privileged place of right, at the expense of others, no matter what. The juxtaposition of the poet’s death and the vote on war is therefore a powerful sign for our own times, a telling one. Only a life of deep reflection is capable of recognising that which is most profoundly and most humanly true. It was Bishop Richard Holloway of Edinburgh who instructed us “to live the examined life, which tests itself for its own prejudices and assertions. For only then will we prevent ourselves from gaining knowledge for its own sake while at the same time throwing away its key”. Only a Heaney could put in a form of poetry the underlying truths that lead to a government motion on the use of bombing in the cause of an apparent right:

 

Who would connive

In civilised outrage

Yet understand the exact

And tribal, intimate, revenge.

 

The word ‘humility’ signifies, as with the poet Seamus Heane, a very grounded closeness to Mother earth. It relates to the Latin word ‘humus’ meaning earth. It is not the false humility which is full of itself. As a farmer’s son, he had the soil of Ireland in his finger nails, and rather than rail against the Northern Ireland conflict, which was at its height when Heaney was writing at his height, he used the image of the thousand years old bodies, dug up in Irish bogs, to write about time and the consequences of living out of time.

 

He once said he had ‘an early warning system telling me to get back inside my own head’ whenever politics was discussed. Though he left the countryside and taught English first in Belfast and then in Dublin as a young man, he did not forget his farming roots. He fondly remembered watching his grandfather cutting turf for peat, and taking a bottle of milk to the old man who would straighten up just long enough to drink it before bending over his spade again. He pictured himself working in the same way, digging out words with the nib of his pen.

 

For me is humility. Heaney was a great believer in what he called ‘learning by heart’. Especially learning poems by heart. And the Christian Faith lays great store on the heart as the place for all our decision-making. Humility is the ground, the grounded place. It is the place where lies our true centre and personal, spiritual and moral equilibrium, our sense of balance and perspective and our true humanity. It is the place where we may ‘learn by heart’. We are asked to return once more to state of true humility. This is not a place of weakened or thin humanity, but one which is most fully alive to the world in which it is living, and, one which shines that same strong searching light on the world as it is in its own state of vanity. A word which at the same time means proud and also empty or fruitless.

 

When Jesus teaches the values of the Kingdom of God on this earth, his is very much leading where the poet follows on with the learning of the essential and wise things ‘by heart’, the leading of the deeply active/reflective life, the weighing of words and the celebration of their meaning and depth. Above all in Kingdom teaching, strong attention is placed on our lives on our own state of becoming and of the close relationship between the observation of things and the consciousness that as Yeats, once said, ‘everything we look upon is blessed’. The Kingdom is that place where life itself, wherever it goes on, whether as kind or brutal is in God always waiting as we might say ‘in potential’, waiting, as it were,  for its own transformation into his likeness and being. Waiting for that which belonged to Heaney, ‘of the benediction of God’s kindness’.

 

A true and decent humanity never discards this possibility, and nor should we…

 

 



Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

31st Aug 2012


Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity Year C

 

“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted”.  Luke 14.10.

 

 

It’s a strange and compelling coincidence that in the same week that the British government has lost a motion on a decision for military action in Syria, the poet Seamus Heaney has died. We might well imagine a world of difference between the life of a poet and that of a politician. But we judge on what must be the case of the matter. It is typical for most people to consider politicians as above all practitioners of a dark and devious art. But this of course is not always the case. We equate politics with deviousness. But that is not always the way it is. But most people would find it harder to consider the life of a poet, and of what kind of person they imagine a poet to be and of what kind of life they might live. There is no one template. But the possibilities are endless. The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny described Heaney on behalf all the Irish people. He said “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as people”. He was a Catholic Irishman from Londonderry and yet he was every Irishman. A citation he was given in 1995 for The Nobel Prize for Literature read “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”. Our former poet laureate, Andrew Motion commented that to read Heaney’s poetry was to “feel the benediction of his kindness”. The actor Liam Neeson has said that with the death of Heaney “Ireland had lost a part of its soul’.

 

Only a humble man could be given such accolades. Only someone, who spoke the truth, as we all understand it in its most profound sense. In today’s Gospel we are given the simple figure of the instruction in humility. It is the parable of the invitation to the wedding banquet and of two pieces of advice, the first one is to the guest to take the lowest seat, so that he may be called higher. Secondly there is the advice to the host, instructing him to invite those he would never imagine inviting, the poor, the lame and the blind; in other words beggars who could not re-pay the invitation in kind. On its own the parable would be quaint were it not for the context in which it is being delivered. Related as it is to the life of Christ and his Gospel message, it becomes for the Church a parable for the values of the Kingdom of God. The earthly banquet equates to the heavenly banquet as the occasion which sees the gathering in of those who have been invited to the feast, the place in which the divine and the human life finds its place of understanding and rest. But this parable also has ‘teeth’. For when Jesus teaches the values of the Kingdom, and where this parable points to the quality of humility, so a strong and searching light is cast on those types of behaviour where human pride is to the fore, and where there is recourse to take, if needs be by an act of greed, or force or vanity, the higher place where we may assert our own right to be ‘on top’, our own privileged place of right, at the expense of others, no matter what. The juxtaposition of the poet’s death and the vote on war is therefore a powerful sign for our own times, a telling one. Only a life of deep reflection is capable of recognising that which is most profoundly and most humanly true. It was Bishop Richard Holloway of Edinburgh who instructed us “to live the examined life, which tests itself for its own prejudices and assertions. For only then will we prevent ourselves from gaining knowledge for its own sake while at the same time throwing away its key”. Only a Heaney could put in a form of poetry the underlying truths that lead to a government motion on the use of bombing in the cause of an apparent right:

 

Who would connive

In civilised outrage

Yet understand the exact

And tribal, intimate, revenge.

 

The word ‘humility’ signifies, as with the poet Seamus Heane, a very grounded closeness to Mother earth. It relates to the Latin word ‘humus’ meaning earth. It is not the false humility which is full of itself. As a farmer’s son, he had the soil of Ireland in his finger nails, and rather than rail against the Northern Ireland conflict, which was at its height when Heaney was writing at his height, he used the image of the thousand years old bodies, dug up in Irish bogs, to write about time and the consequences of living out of time.

 

He once said he had ‘an early warning system telling me to get back inside my own head’ whenever politics was discussed. Though he left the countryside and taught English first in Belfast and then in Dublin as a young man, he did not forget his farming roots. He fondly remembered watching his grandfather cutting turf for peat, and taking a bottle of milk to the old man who would straighten up just long enough to drink it before bending over his spade again. He pictured himself working in the same way, digging out words with the nib of his pen.

 

For me is humility. Heaney was a great believer in what he called ‘learning by heart’. Especially learning poems by heart. And the Christian Faith lays great store on the heart as the place for all our decision-making. Humility is the ground, the grounded place. It is the place where lies our true centre and personal, spiritual and moral equilibrium, our sense of balance and perspective and our true humanity. It is the place where we may ‘learn by heart’. We are asked to return once more to state of true humility. This is not a place of weakened or thin humanity, but one which is most fully alive to the world in which it is living, and, one which shines that same strong searching light on the world as it is in its own state of vanity. A word which at the same time means proud and also empty or fruitless.

 

When Jesus teaches the values of the Kingdom of God on this earth, his is very much leading where the poet follows on with the learning of the essential and wise things ‘by heart’, the leading of the deeply active/reflective life, the weighing of words and the celebration of their meaning and depth. Above all in Kingdom teaching, strong attention is placed on our lives on our own state of becoming and of the close relationship between the observation of things and the consciousness that as Yeats, once said, ‘everything we look upon is blessed’. The Kingdom is that place where life itself, wherever it goes on, whether as kind or brutal is in God always waiting as we might say ‘in potential’, waiting, as it were,  for its own transformation into his likeness and being. Waiting for that which belonged to Heaney, ‘of the benediction of God’s kindness’.

 

A true and decent humanity never discards this possibility, and nor should we…

 



The Message of Eternal Life

26th Aug 2012


12th Sunday of Trinity Year B

 

“Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life”. John 6.60.

St John’s Gospel is the Gospel which is written for the Church, and which raises practical issues of basic understanding and faith. And this morning’s Gospel Reading confronts us with what John has called ‘the message of eternal life’ and of the challenge of its falling on deaf ears, and the possibility of its being lost. I well remember as a young child on holiday in August taking a new orange ball onto the beach. As I got to the sea’s edge I threw the ball into the sea and swam after it, but the waves soon took it out, and then there was the sad admission of its being irrecoverable. The sea had taken it away from me. It was awful to see it float away, so visible among the blue/grey sea, seemingly quite happy to bob up and down and to be on its way, being carried out on the current, further and further away. And then I imagined that it might arrive in another place and that someone might find it and have it, delighted at the thought of a lovely orange ball having arrived out of the blue. I wondered though, if my voice would be loud enough to say “Would you please give me my ball back?” But it might be received by another as a gift from the sea…

 

As I write about this, over forty years later, I realise both then and now, I am ’hotwired’ to place an imagined and reflective interpretation on what was at base a child’s real loss and a disappointment. And this opens up the meaning of what John calls ‘the message of eternal life’. This is not a phrase, like many phrases in holy scripture, which begets immediate understanding. And so John offers us a clue as to the direction in which we are being taken when he tells us that ‘the flesh has nothing to offer; it is the spirit that gives life’. The difference between life’s brute particulars and the hope which lies in it and yet beyond it. It is the spirit of God which, residing in us, can provide the deeper sea, the broader scope and endless horizon.

 

Thou art a sea without a shore

A sun without a sphere;

Thy time is now and evermore,

Thy place is everywhere

 

This is the challenge of the teaching of Christ for John. It is difficult teaching. The message of Christ is not all ‘sweetness and light’. In John, if there is light, it is the light of Christ, his gaze, which burns into the individual consciousness and which leaves its mark. It is the light which searches us out and knows us. It is akin to what we might call our own self- realisation in the ‘cold light of day’. It is disconcerting and even intolerable. Echoes of Simeon’s words are heard, namely that Jesus is the one in whom ‘the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare’. Jesus is concerned not with exteriors but his gaze is the one which shines a light into the deep places of the heart and mind, and this has left some seekers after God with an all too real sense of their own vulnerability. ‘This is intolerable language’ says one of the followers, ‘How could anyone accept it?’ We must stay in this difficult place if the alternative is to place Christian teaching as nothing more than a kind of romance.

 

And yet the gaze is also the loving gaze, which longs for our spiritual homecoming, for the maintenance of what lies true in us and for what will last. We know we are in need of healing and yet we draw back, all too often defensively. And yet the ‘message of eternal life’ is loving and confiding. It longs to provide for future. John sets up in the Gospel the tension between that which pertains to the flesh (life ‘without’ God) and the spirit (belief and trust in the promises of Christ). There is, in coming to Christian Faith. (we ‘come to faith’ at every moment) the realisation in the words of the Psalmist: ‘Thou hast searched me out and known me; thou knowest my down seating and my uprising, thou knowest my thoughts long before’ (Psalm 139). There is nothing to fear, though we do flee when against our better nature, love’s welcome is all too real and all to revealing.

 

There are many who come to King’s Cross seeking something out. It is the magnetic draw of the station, acting like a magnetic field. The massive inflow and outflow of human traffic speaks of life as connected and yet also strangely impersonal. But contained in the sea of humanity, flowing in and around this place, are the lives of the many with their hopes and dreams, their joys and disappointments, their stresses and their anxieties. And each person in the sea of humanity is a whole life, with its desires and its longings, containing within that life that eternal phrase of Christ about the flesh and the spirit. They know, each one of them, that there is something more to life than the timetable and the getting to the next place and to life’s brute particulars. There is in each person the unspoken prayer which is their hopefulness and their life’s truer purpose, and it is from this place that eternal life receives its human echo, in the words of Peter:

 

“Lord, where shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life.”

 

St Augustine of Hippo:

“Therefore, my God, I would not exist at all, unless you were in me; or rather, I would not exist unless I were in you ‘from whom and by whom all things exist….” (Confessions, I.2).

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“Someone said to me this week, I don’t want you to sell me the Christian Faith like an insurance policy. I don’t want you to tell me that Christianity can make me stronger and better than I might be at present. I want to tell me of the Christ who comes to me at my weakest and most vulnerable moments, who is with me when it feels like all others have deserted me…who is my way, my truth and my life. It is in this observation that the message of Christ lies, inviting acceptance of this word and belief in it. In it is implied the already known idea of selling all you have to buy the pearl of great price…”

 

To be like this God, who gives up on no-one, who loves us, not because we are loveable but that we become loveable only because God loves us, God loves us with a love that will not let us go, a love that loved us before we were created, a love that loves us now, a love that will love us forever, world without end. A love that says of each single one of us: "I love you, you are precious and special to me, I love you as if you were the only human being on earth, I love you and there is nothing you can do to make me love you more because I already love you perfectly."



Walking in the Way of Insight

19th Aug 2012


‘Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight’. Proverbs 9.6

 

I was speaking to a member of this congregation yesterday about the Olympic Games legacy. We both agreed that the Games had reminded us of something that we had become more aware. That British dna is now most emphatically diverse and multicultural. It overlay the opening ceremony, which seamlessly set three scenes of life developing one from the other. The first idea was of England as a pastoral idyll - and this soon gave way to a contrasting Industrial England, to the strains of William Blake’s hymn ‘Jerusalem’, which spoke of a ‘green and pleasant land’ and yet also of ‘dark, satanic mills’. The underlying message was of convulsive and inevitable and difficult change. In the second and concluding part of Danny Boyle’s drama lay the everyday tale of a contemporary British scene in which family life is located in and with social diversity. Family members come from backgrounds and origins from other places. Boyle’s message of a Britain with both a familiar and an unexpected culture then gave way to the Games itself, in which ground-breaking history was made by Mo Farah, an exiled Somali Briton cheered on by the crowd as ‘one of us’.

 

Our conversation reflected upon the breathtaking speed with which all this has happened, and within this recent time-span the great identity change happening  for this country. But it must remain true that these reflections are made in relation to the great swell of euphoria which the Games has generated. It will be important simply to note these things but also to check them against the available realities. And how are we to read the signs of the times as members of the Christian Church? What are the sources from which we draw a proper and critical view of the society around us? How does the Church come to understand the radical social changes that have emerged in the past thirty years? 

 

Our reading from Proverbs this morning proffer some clues. Proverbs finds its place in what we call the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. This wisdom is of the kind which has been handed down from generation to generation and whose quality, common sense and beauty has withstood the test of time. And in the lives of my own parents, both hailing from small villages, the handed down village stories, many of them based on real history and fact, were shared for the way in which they had spoken about life and contained lessons for life. Wisdom in scripture was held in the highest esteem, given a feminine gender and enlarged upon in the Book of Wisdom using descriptive and poetic language. In the absence of a Christ figure, the Old Testament people relied upon their own store of wisdom and its sharing was there, as the Prayer Book would have it, ‘to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’. One of the earliest and greatest churches in the world, Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, in modern day Istanbul, was once the greatest Christian building in the world. Its mastermind, the Emperor Justinian had cried at the opening of the great church “Glory to God who has found me worthy to complete such a work. Solomon, I have outdone you!” I have only ever understood the quote as a boast before finding the sentence that precedes it, which places Justinian’s proclamation in a new light. It is humbler and more impressive. Wisdom and its daughter ‘humility-after-the-fact’, was doubtless present.

 

The Church must surely be known for its wisdom. It has, unfortunately been popularly depicted as at odds with itself on a whole range of human issues. It has seemed by many to be at odds with its place in a society grown increasingly multicultural and complex; grown expansive and diverse. It has grown in knowledge of a certain kind but not perhaps in wisdom and self-understanding to the same degree. The Anglican Church does not see itself as a dogmatic Church and does not want to take the hard line, but equally is aware that for the Christian Church, there are acknowledged truths about how in in what way life is to be governed without which humanity suffers and the quality of life diminished.  The questions are those concerning what we mean by God. They speak of the deepest kind of authority and of the most profound kind of truth for our times. This is because they speak of our true origins and ultimate destinies. And so our text is timely: ‘Lay aside all immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight’.

 

This must mean for the Church and for us that holy wisdom is actively cultivated. I imagine this to challenge us into realising our identity as Christians as fully dimensional. The dimension so often missing has been the one which has is disciplined to reflect and to pray about our world and all the many issues and difficulties and changes that have been brought about. We are not neutral bystanders as Christians but are deeply implicated and involved in what goes on around us. Where Christ has gone before we follow. He was deeply critical of the society of his day, but this criticism was coming from what Proverbs calls ‘insight’. As Christians we have a distinctive voice. The Collect for today urges us to be ‘partakers of the heavenly treasure’ and that suggests some kind of reflective or contemplative life. It is no good simply to have half-baked personal opinions about life like the ranting taxi-driver. Nor even to stay silent and to pretend no knowledge. It must surely be possible for Church’s like ours to develop a sense of our embracing a Christian view of life which we can put into words, and which carries authority and weight. 

 

The first part of our growth in this Church has been in number and in diversity and of joy in believing. The second must demand something more of us. To begin to make the adventure into the life of prayer and contemplation and to train ourselves to achieve this. This approach will aid us to centre our view of The Church and of Christian teaching, and to ground ourselves as we ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest not just from the point of view of opinions and comments and personal preferences, but from the place of the living presence of God, who discloses himself as Holy Wisdom, ‘hagia sophia’ within our hearts. This is also a training in listening, not only to God in silence and contemplative prayer, but to a listening to ourselves and our own inner voice, and a learning in listening to others, also. As Proverbs suggests, God calls his faithful to lay aside immaturity, which is the existence which does not reflect upon realties, and to walk, perhaps at first painfully slowly, in the way of insight, literally a seeing into those things for which Christ lived and died. This is the ‘bread and butter’ work of a fully vitalised and awakened Church, most aware of its own strong and real identity and most ready to embrace the new understanding and passion which our multicultural identity demands.

On 1st December I invite you to come away and to join our neighbours at St Pancras Church for a Quiet day in which we will begin to explore how we as a church might embrace the contemplative life of prayer. This is the one which will help us to ‘walk in the way of insight’ and to speak from where the Word of God has and will be implanted in our hearts.

 

 



The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

15th Aug 2012


“Why should I be honoured from a visit from the Mother of my Lord?”

One of my earliest memories of a pregnant woman is of my own mother, getting herself ready to leave home for hospital for the birth of my younger brother. I remember that in the hurry there was some sort of cross words between my parents. This was my mother’s fourth pregnancy and I remember her saying to my father “Well, if you feel that way, you can give birth to the next one!” Even while this was going on she was busy applying copious amounts of face make-up, determined, and readying herself for a new birth which was already in the air as nerve-racking and momentous. But remembering all this and watching my parents leave home, she kissing his cheek and leaving a red blob of lipstick on it; my mother leaving for her delivery and my father rushing off to the funeral of his favourite uncle, and my being packed off to a friend’s house; this was been for me a key memory. It represents life and death, loss and gain, and everything else in between all rolled into one. And it was all done wordlessly. When we come to this Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary we honour her as ‘full of grace’. This means that she occupies a unique place in God the Father’s heart and in the plan for human salvation. And this is summed up in our prayer of greeting “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, prayer for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen”.

Mary’s response to God’s trust is of a life given to making Christ embodied and evident. In this morning’s Gospel we witness her greeting of her cousin Elizabeth and the child which leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. This stands for the Church as a key moment in what we might call the ecology of grace. It is the bridging of  the chasm between the womb and the grave. It is in Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth that grace erupts in the responsive kick in Elizabeth’s womb. And that kick is a message that comes suddenly and vividly and yet wordlessly. The wordlessness of this event emits its own kind of invisible gasp. It is God-provided and  ‘full of grace’. A moment of truth. Mary, as theotokos, or bearer of God, partakes of the very nature of God. She re-instates for Jung what Thomas Hardy once called ‘the eternal feminine’, and which for Jung was a necessary co-relative and the corrective to a totally masculinised Godhead. And this was something the people had already known.

The bond that ties us to all to our mother’s womb is more than one of DNA or genes and chromosomes alone. It carries with it a meaning which has been grasped by the ancients and for all time and which speaks of what is life-giving, what lies at the heart of our existence and inseparable from it and what belongs to our essential human nature. The image that people kept in their homes in centuries past was the image of the madonna and child. The feminine being that lies at the heart of the Godhead: there is no God without recourse to an understanding of the eternal feminine, and with that to the image of the Mother.  And on this day it is Mary who as ‘bearer of God’ is the one who, as ‘full of grace’ is the responsive agent of God’s will and whose obedience opens up a new way of life for God’s people; one which, it is suggested, is alive to the possibility of the givenness of God’s grace for us all.

Though we are word-makers and word utterers, the Christian life will find us more and more inhabiting that place which is wordless: ‘a staircase for silence’ in the words of Allan Ecclestone. It has been so important that we learn about human presence : of how we are all of us singular presences. It is often found that the mnost effective communication is that which is expressed non-verbally. Great actors can, like Anthony Hopkins in ‘The Remains of the Day’ convey a whole raft of emotional meaning through a simple look of gesture, a movement of the eyes down, a shifting of the body’s angle to the light with the keeping of a taut silence. All these speak to the sensitive soul. And so with Mary’s greeting. It touched a chord. It was felt in Elizabeth’s womb, and already for John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s unborn child, a way was being prepared, and something new and great, something more than this child was coming to birth. And this was done wordlessly. It is on the level of being rather than of doing. “Let it be done according to your will”, says Mary. At the wedding feast at Cana she orders others to do what Jesus says. It is from her being that the Christian Church finds much of its becoming.

One person who startled everyone by his reaction to the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1950 was Carl Jung:
The promulgation of the new dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary could, in itself, have been sufficient reason for examining the psychological background. It is interesting to note that, among the many articles published in the Catholic and Protestant press on the declaration of the dogma, there was not one, so far as I could see, which laid anything like proper emphasis on what was undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely the popular movement and  the psychological need behind it. Essentially, the writers of the articles were satisfied with learned considerations, dogmatic and historical, which have no bearing on the living religious process. But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work ...One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the 'Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.' For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.47
I consider it to be the most important religious event since the Reformation. It is a petra scandali for the unpsychological mind: how can such an unfounded assertion as the bodily reception of the Virgin into heaven be put forward as worthy of belief? But the method which the Pope uses in order to demonstrate the truth of the dogma makes sense to the psychological mind, because it bases itself firstly on the necessary prefigurations, and secondly on a tradition of religious assertions reaching back for more than a thousand years. What outrages the Protestant standpoint in particular is the boundless approximation of the Deipara to the Godhead and, in consequence, the endangered supremacy of Christ, from which Protestantism will not budge. In sticking to this point it has obviously failed to consider that its hymnology is full of references to the 'heavenly bridegroom,' who is now suddenly supposed not to have a bride with equal rights. Or has, perchance, the 'bridegroom,' in true psychologistic manner, been understood as a mere metaphor?48
The dogmatizing of the Assumption does not, however, according to the dogmatic view, mean that Mary has attained the status of goddess, although, as mistress of heaven and mediatrix, she is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning).



 

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