THE OPENING MOMENTS of the great paschal liturgy of Holy Saturday declare, by word and sign the Church's commitment to the sanctification of time. Marking the paschal candle with the sign of the cross and with the first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet, the priest traces upon it the number of years from the incarnation. Before lighting it he proclaims: `Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age, forever. Amen'
IN THE PASSAGE of time, and w especially on that Holy Night of the Lord's Passover, the Church sees in things temporal the immanence of things eternal. We reaffirm our trust in the abiding truths of the gospel, which are for all people, in all places, for all time. By numbering years from the incarnation our Christian forebears ex pressed the consecration of human events to the glory of God. It was a gesture of flagrant, necessary and inevitable triumphalism; as inevitable an expression of what Christians are and believe as was the vain gesture of the French enlightenment of its own sinister agenda when it threw over the calendar of the Christian centuries on a day which we still call October 5, 1793.
IT IS NOT SURPRISING therefore, that the nation at large (and the Church of England obediently following suit) has been in two minds about how to celebrate the inauguration of the third millennium of Christianity. It is not an event which can easily be made a cause of celebration among what are now squeamishly called `other faith communities'; and, apart from an understandable instinct to party in the face of certain oblivion, it is unlikely to commend itself to those who have no faith at all, and no hope that time can ever be redeemed and sanctified. Among Anglicans, though the decade of Evangelism was inaugurated as a
preparation for the millennium (in the hope of presenting to the Lord of Time a harvest of souls), its impact in the first five years has been so slight that to climax it with a major celebration is probably beginning to look foolhardy. BUT AS CERTAINLY as dawn w follows darkness the Millennium will come. Pope John Paul has declared that `preparing for the "' year 2,000 has become as it were the hermeneutical key of my Pontificate'. In the Apostolic Letter `Tertio Millennio Adveniente' he has advocated a three year spiritual preparation for the event for all the world's one billion Catholics; the first year (1997) devoted to Jesus Christ and the mystery of salvation, the second to a `renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit'; the third to a ' journey to the Father' and in particular a renewal in self-examination and in the use of the sacrament of penance. The recently published 600-page Catechism of the Catholic Church has been recommended as a study and prayer resource for this three stage voyage into God.
THE COUNCIL of Forward in Faith has planned for our constituency in the Church of England a similar and related programme of study and prayer. In the belief that we are those who called to sustain iii our Church the primary and eternal teachings of our religion we are calling on all faithful people to join with us in preparation for and celebration of the beginning of the third Christian millennium. The programme is called CHRIST OUR FUTURE, and will begin with Lent 1997.
IN EACH OF THREE years (1997, 1998, 1999) there will be a sequence of related events and a programme of literature for study and prayer. In association with Cost of Conscience there will be day conferences for clergy and lay people which will relate Christology (the Church's teaching about the person and work of Jesus) to Ecclesiology (our understanding of the nature and purpose of the Church). These will be accompanied each year by a residential retreat/conference for clergy at the University of York, examining related themes more prayerfully and in greater depth. At the same time teaching material for young people, parish discussion and prayer groups and clergy chapters will deal, at an appropriate level, with similar issues.
THE PRINTED MATERIAL will w be available in two ways: by subscription for the whole three year course (payable at the beginning of each year, and attracting a considerable discount) or by individual items. The texts of addresses given at the day and residential conferences will be available both verbatim from the Cost of Conscience Office or, in edited form, in the relevant issues of New Directions.
THE PROGRAMME of preparation will climax with a major Eucharistic celebration in the London Arena (the capital's largest indoor venue, in Docklands, close to the site of the Millennium Exhibition in Greenwich) at noon on Saturday June 10, 2000.
The challenge to our constituency is grow in the Faith of the Church, universal and sempiternal; in the current climate of reticence and relativism to proclaim it boldly to Church and nation; and finally, to celebrate our confidence in a Future which is in every sense His and His alone.
`The only possible future for the Church of England', said Fr. Broadhurst on the day of the announcement of his consecration, `is a Catholic future'. The purpose of Christ Our Future, the Forward in Faith celebration of the Millennium is to leave no one in arty doubt: the future is not Orange, the Future is Catholic!
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