FAITH OF OUR FATHERS 
by Arthur Middleton

 

The Golden Jubilee of VE Day coincided with the ASB commemoration of the 14th century English mystic Julian of Norwich. The VE Day celebrations spoke time and again of the aspirations of hope at the end of this second millennium and the need for new directions in the national and international affairs of nations in a Europe that seems exhausted and confused. The same can be said for the Church of God and especially the Anglican Communion.

Julian of Norwich is a woman of hope who lived at a time when there was much death, despair and destruction. In a book of essays with the title, Woman of Hope, Sister Anna Maria Reynolds writes on this theme in relation to Julian, and quotes Bernard Haring’s depiction of a ‘Universal Congress of Skunks’, presided over by the Supervisor of Devils the Super-Skunk. The main item on the Agenda is the formulation of a strategy for the transformation of the Church our enemy into a perfect sacrament of pessimism. Let Christians get away with anything so long as they destroy hope.

Julian’s hope rested on something outside herself: The remedy is that our Lord is with us, keeping us and leading us into the fullness of joy; for our Lord intends this to be an endless joy, that he who will be our bliss when we are there heaven] will be our protector while we are here, our way and our heaven in true love and trust.

No Christian since the days of the apostles illustrates the true peace that hope in Christ brings as the great Augustine of Hippo, who influenced Julian’s thinking. Read the pathetic story of his early life in his Confessions and note the restlessness in him before his conversion. His mind seemed tossed about by every storm of speculation without any solid hold on any one reassuring truth. His heart was in turmoil as it was torn between false philosophies and the ideals suggested by sensuality. His will was distracted and unable to fix itself on any serious duty. He was too clever not to be aware that his conscience knew no real peace.

Then came his conversion and what a change it effected in him as his whole being was flooded with the peace that comes when all our hope is in Christ. The peace that stilled his mind enabled him to penetrate revealed truth more comprehensively than any Christian since St. Paul. The tranquility of his heart gave him a vision of the Eternal Beauty that simplified the actions of his will, enabling him to know what he had to do and to do it with all his strength. The remedy is that Our Lord is with us, keeping us and leading us into the fullness of joy.

For Augustine as for Julian, the discovery was that hope, as a purely human aspiration, has no future until it rests in something outside ourselves, in the divine life that Christ lives with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Only as we root our lives in the life of the Blessed Trinity will we find a peace, and it is a peace that passes all understanding. This is the peace the world needs at the end of this second millennium.

Arthur Middleton

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