This prolonged period of being at home has given me time to discover more about St. Helena and I have enjoyed reading Evelyn Waugh’s historical novel Helena. She lived at a time in the late Roman Empire when there were many cults, of which Christianity was soon, and partly through her influence, to become the official religion. Throughout her life she asked of these cults whether their adherents truly believed that these things had actually happened. She had no reason to question their psychological helpfulness, nor their aesthetic appeal, nor their usefulness in bonding societies together, but she regularly asked, in Waugh’s words:
When and where did this happen? And how do you know?
Sure enough, once converted to Christianity, she sought to find the actual cross that Jesus had been crucified on, she wanted to confirm that it had indeed been so. That these things had really happened does matter to Christianity. It intrigues me to note that this episode of the discovery of the cross, or as it is noted in the Prayer Book for the 3rd of May, the Invention of the Cross, although sounding so apocryphal to us, does perhaps carry substantial and significant weight in the scheme of Christian belief.
The recognition that something really happened makes all the difference. One of the eerie experiences many of us have at present is to wonder if this cessation of normal life is really happening, it is a reality so novel as to be elusive of our grasp. And what about our hopes for a nation truly renewed in the spirit of compassion? Could that really happen? Maybe it gives us fortitude in our hope to realise that such events have really happened – the coming of Christ, the turning of the Roman world to Christianity, these momentous events happened. Turning points in history happen, maybe a great turning point in our history could happen again.
We pray for our schools as they prepare for some kind of return to school life in June.
This week we look toward the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost, and on Thursday, the Ascension. Ordinarily this is a great for the Deanery Eucharist in the beauty of Finchale, with the river and the birds gliding past. I have been able to get in to St. Oswald’s Church this week, and it has been a privilege to be able to pray there again, and I shall go in on Sunday morning to pray for the world and our parishes, and for you all.
With love and prayers,