My God, My God

My God, O why hast Thou forsaken me?

Who came to seek Thee only at Thy call,

Why find, unsought, who may not now find Thee?

Of Death and Hell, O Lord, Thou holdst the key,

And wilt not come – though worse than death appals?

My God, O why hast Thou forsaken me?

O Thou who diest to make for us Thy plea,

Who by Thine own hand didst redeem my fall,

Why find, unsought, who may not now find Thee?

I may not find, for stands doubt’s false decree

Between us a locked door, an endless wall;

My God, O why hast Thou forsaken me?

O Thou who hast defeated death by fee

Of Thy most Precious Self, to give us All:

Why find, unsought, who may not now find Thee?

O leave me not to perish by degrees

Of faith’s grim ebbing into sin’s dark thrall,

My God, O why hast Thou forsaken me?

Why find, unsought, who may not now find Thee?

Cherry Foster

 

The Locked Door

A prayer after the non-ordained were refused Communion all through Easter to Ascension.

Art Thou ascended, Lord, who hast not yet appeared

To us who in agony weep beside the fast-locked door?

Who with minds perplexed, and hearts by Thy loss seared,

Still hopeless grieve Thy death, and may not hold Thee more.

Are we no more Thy people, who locked outside Thy house,

Are given Thee in picture and forbidden to receive?

Hast Thou turned from all within Thy mystic Spouse,

Except the very stewards whom Thy sheep of Thee bereave?

Art Thou ascended ere Thy people can Thee touch?

Hast Thou Thy human nature abandoned in Thy death?

Thus unassumed, unhealed, and lost in peril such

That we would betray our faith and mourn our pointless breath.

O Lord, if the gift Thou gavest meant more than bitter loss,

As human tears Thou weptst and human blood didst shed

For us sinners counted precious upon the accursed cross,

Look with favour on Thy people in their most bitter dread.

O turn again, O turn us  – turn to Thy starving sheep,

And be Thyself our shepherd, and feed again Thy flock.

O leave us not for ever outside Thy tomb to weep,

O answer Thou the door who Thyself didst bid us knock!

 

Cherry Foster

 

 

N.B. “accursed” is pronounced here, as I believe traditional, with three syllables.  I can’t work out how to mark that.  And also, I do appreciate most people are acting in good conscience, and anyway, however rightly horrified I am by what is being done from the logical and spiritual point of view, I cannot rightly assign blame.

O Life, art Thou become Death?

Rembrandt, the denial of St. Peter source wikimedia commons photo credit unknown no copyright
Painting by Rembrandt: source: Wikimedia Commons; Photo: credit unknown.

 

I reached my hand to the door of the church,

And found Thy people might not enter in.

At Thy desire I would receive Thy cup,

As from Thy hand, but that was counted sin.

The Bread of Life we deem a source of death;

Thy scattered sheep are perishing alone.

Our faith is not in Thee but in the earth,

For earthly life we Thy command disown.

O Lord, forgive!  O Lord, restore to Thee,

Thy people whom Thy faith turn upside-down:

Who seeking life, find death, and know it not,

And Thee as Life and Truth in shame discrown.

Cherry Foster

Champaigne_shepherd
The Good Shepherd by Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Lockdown, discrimination, and fair play?

Another discussion about civil rights and lockdown: considering prejudice and fair play.

There seems to have been an absolute uproar regarding the possibility that the over seventies should be legally obliged to stay at home, while everyone else is allowed a greater degree of freedom, while there does not seem to be similar uproar about legally obliging everyone to stay at home.

I appreciate that part of this is down to practical issues, such as the notion that people would have to carry identity documents to prove that they were not over seventy, but still, I don’t think that explains the whole of it.  Why should we feel an immense sense of injustice when one group is singled out like that, and not more of a sense of injustice when exactly what we would complain is being done to them is being done to everyone?

This is something that can be noted in other situations as well, for instance, if an employer paid their one white staff member an unjustly low wage, as opposed to a situation where they exploit all their staff members equally.  However, in that situation,  I suspect the implied racism is argued to be more sinister than plain, universal greed.  The injustice when done to more people is greater as an injustice, but this is balanced off by the particular moral depravity of racism.  I am not sure if I am convinced that this actually stands to the extent to which we tend to take it, for it would seem to me that a respect for the humanity of some is more readily extended to the respect for the humanity of all, than respect for no-one’s humanity.

I can also see that a feeling that something which is the same for everyone is different from placing restrictions on one group of people.  For instance, I would tend to argue that if an ID is required for buying age restricted products, it would be fairer to require it from everyone, rather than merely from those who look in the eyes of that particular checkout assistant as if they are under 25.  That everyone should have to put up with this irritation and inconvenience for the sake of protecting children and teenagers seems fairer than to say that only people who look in a certain way should.

I do agree with that argument as far as that sort of situation goes.  However, the lockdown isn’t that sort of situation.  Some children still have access to education while others don’t – on the grounds of what their parents do.  Many people are still working, if hardly as usual.  Those who live alone are confined alone (I did not touch another person for more than three weeks in the early part of the lockdown – indeed, I was not in the same room with another person for a day short of three weeks – I was using Skype video, and it is no alternative); those who live with others are at least not completely deprived of human contact – but are potentially having to live in a close confinement with them in an extremely stressful situation.  I have a house and garden, and can easily exercise without coming into contact with anyone (not necessarily a positive); others can’t come in and out of their homes without using shared lifts or staircases.

I think “fair play” can be brought in when it is the same for everyone (that is, everyone pays the same and everyone has the same access to the advantage gained) but in neither direction is this the case.  There is both the issue of the fact that the lockdown is much severer for some groups than others, in a way that is practically unavoidable, and the fact that, as most people don’t seem to be at serious risk, their gains are much more limited (they won’t be significantly ill, though they would suffer if infrastructure broke down).  As in the case of a lot of others with similar health problems: there was 100% chance I would be made very seriously ill by lockdown.  I am not at risk from COVID-19, as far as anyone knows, though I would be from structural breakdown (having said, does severe lockdown not run the risk of causing such breakdown too?).  Could one suggest therefore, that the policy constitutes indirect discrimination?  I don’t have a clear opinion on that.  But it is interesting.

Anyway, perhaps it would be reasonable to say in this case: if it is wrong to tell the over-seventies that they have to be confined at home, while no-one else is, despite the fact that this policy is probably a very logical one from the economic/illness/protect the NHS point of view, it is presumably wrong to tell everyone who isn’t a keyworker that they have to be similarly confined.  This would actually lead to the conclusion that severe lockdown was never a legitimate policy in the first place.  Given that my other lines of thought have tended to lead me more to “it’s wrong for this length of time,” I am somewhat perplexed by this.

Whatever else can be said, however, I think that considering legitimacy of restriction of normally important freedom in the context of epidemics and other natural disasters is overdue.  Human rights declarations tend to focus on other types of situation.  If these considerations are taken seriously, they cannot be set aside because people might spread disease any more than they can be set aside because someone might start a riot.

Cherry Foster

What do we believe? Questions of a Troubled Churchgoer

Resurrection_(24) Photo credit Surgun source Wikamedia Commons no copyright
Resurrection – this icon shows Christ rescuing Adam and Eve from Death. Photo credit: Surgun; source: Wikimedia Commons

Where is God now?

To be sought in leading the way in trying to preserve earthly life and our infrastructure?

Does this make sense?  What does it suggest we believe?

In the primacy and priority of earthly life, over and above all other considerations, including the Divine Life which does not notice death.  In the notion that lay-participation in the Eucharist, lay Communion, is merely a selfish indulgence and not part of the outflowing of God’s love “for the Life of the World”.

We are not witnessing to God in a crisis, but standing helpless and craven before a threat which is horrible, but which Christ has overcome, not by sparing us death and disaster, but by raising us up through them into his risen life.

This is not all or nothing – a matter of taking reckless risks or a matter of giving up altogether.  I would be inclined to advocate, for instance, within my own Church group, that people should be live-streaming services from their Churches, and then engaging everyone who can to take Communion to people in their homes to do so.  Through an open window with both minister and recipient wearing mask and gloves, if necessary.

I come from a part of the Church that makes a lot of celebrating the Eucharist daily and receiving daily.  But so far, we have been left without any sort of access to the Sacraments for almost six weeks,  during a crisis – when we need it more, and when the world needs it more.  It is an inherent part of what I was taught about the Eucharist that it is Divine inbreaking, the Real Presence.  To set it aside is to set Christ aside.  If the laity say to the clergy in normal times that they don’t need to come to Church, and that they don’t need to receive the Sacraments because God can provide in other ways, then the clergy tend to disagree quite hard.  And rightly so according to our theology and world view.  But now the church seems to be saying exactly that to us – and I’m not sure people are even aware that it wasn’t what they were apparently saying ten weeks ago.

It’s true that I would advocate straightforward disobedience to a state command to stop people participating in Christian worship, for all I would also advocate taking any precautions that don’t involve actually stopping participation.  However, under these circumstances, I do feel able to understand and respect a preference for yielding to the injunction temporarily while making an enormous fuss about being allowed to reassume as soon as possible.  (And I am talking of denying Christian ministry, not of a particular Christian deciding in all conscience that they are right not to seek to receive under particular circumstances.  That is completely different).

But who is speaking for us?  Who is clamouring to be allowed to worship?  To be allowed to return to our prayer and service to a world that is in agony?  That is rediscovering the horror and inevitability of death, and needs so much to hear the news that death won’t have the last word.

I feel that what is happening is rather like being told that 2+2=5.  If we believe in the Divine Life, then given a straight choice, it takes precedence over earthly life.  What is going on?  How is it we seem to preach one set of beliefs, and act upon another?  Why are we supposed to be serving the world by accepting its values and fears?  We speak the creed, and we act as if there was no Resurrection, as if human death was final and as if the ultimate service we can offer is to attempt to preserve it, rather than to witness that it is not, or at least does not have to be, final.

What has happened?  What is happening?  Have we been persuaded to believe, only to be persuaded not to believe if we have to take a risk in order to act in the way that belief would dictate?

Kyrie eleison – Lord, have mercy upon us all.  I do not see any way forward, personally or as a church, and I am totally bewildered.  But the faith of Christ is enough to supply our lack thereof.

Cherry Foster

A Missed Thank-You?

“I voted for shop-workers as the coronavirus heroes,” said someone of my acquaintance yesterday, “It isn’t that the NHS people aren’t wonderful, but they have signed up to take certain risks, and they are getting a lot of credit.”

I don’t think anyone has been thanked who shouldn’t have been: I think all the people who are being made a fuss of are doing wonderful work (whatever aspects of the line taken in response to the epidemic in the UK I disagree with – see previous posts).  And I really have been avoiding news like the plague and relying on people telling me things.

However, I think if I had been voting for coronavirus heroes, the people I would have wanted to vote for are mothers and fathers, who, as far as I can see, are doing a wonderful job looking after children suffering increasingly from the lockdown while themselves trying to hold up under all sorts of work, financial, and personal stresses, plus the risks to their own health from the restrictions, and in some cases, from coronavirus too.

Thank-you.  I really think parents should get much more credit for their task and what it gives than ever really seems to happen.  And even more under circumstances like these.

Cherry Foster

How shall we seek Thee?

Champaigne_shepherd
The Good Shepherd by Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

O Lord, how shall we seek Thy help who have forsaken Thee?

Thou gavest us all Thyself by bitter death and bitter grief,

Thy Body broken, Thy Blood shed for us upon the Tree,

And still, when questioned by the flame, we turn from Thy belief.

O Lord, we turn away the gift of Thine appointed aid,

Demanding that Thou shouldst provide according to our choice,

And setting now our earthly life above Thy help, we fade,

And cowering thus deny Thy Life, Thy witness with one voice.

Through the shelter of Thy faith that sustained Thine anguished death,

And through the love of Three-in-One that raised Thee from dark hell.

And by the blood of those who gave for Thee their mortal breath,

And in the courage of the One who ever with us dwells:

O turn again, and turn us, Lord, to place in Thee our trust,

Not human sin, nor mortal death, Thy covenant can shake.

Turn us to look to Thee for help and not to mortal dust,

That we may witness to the Life that all from Thee may take.

 

Cherry Foster

 

 

N.B.  Given our cultural tendency to an “all-or-nothing” attitude, I would clarify by saying that I advocate taking all possible precautions in the process of receiving the Sacraments (Thou shalt not put the Lord Thy God to the test); it is denying access entirely on the grounds of human risk that I argue against.  Also, I don’t claim to be innocent in this or anything else, and as always, I do not judge anyone else’s conscience.  That, at least, is thankfully not my problem!