Thursday, 1 January 2015

For Zion’s sake we have fallen silent

This year, my family and I attended the Vigil Mass for Christmas Day so that we could get to the hospital straight afterwards to visit my grandfather, John, who was entering into his last hours. Our parish priest, Fr Cyril, who has always been an excellent homilist, never relying on written notes and speaking from heart, gave a fantastic reflection on the first reading and applied it to our generation.

The first reading for the vigil was Isiah 62: 1 - 5, in which the prophet declares he will proclaim the Kingdom and then goes on to describe it's greatness and favour with God. The whole passage prefigures the Church as established as a covenant in Christ, a Church which has life through earthly and heavenly members but is chiefly maintained by the unfailing love of Christ who pleads for it through all it's trials and difficulties. Thus, the Church, through grace, shall become His his own delight. 

Father Cyril's homily largely took inspiration from the first part of the reading which he linked to John the Baptist's "Voice in the Wilderness":

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,

for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her victory like a burning torch.

Listing the social evils of the day, he laid the accusation against western Christianity that we have in fact fallen silent. We have failed to give voice to Christ's church in the public sphere and as a result, other voices have been heard, voices which have no regard for the sanctity of life, the central importance of marriage to society and which regard the Church with contempt.

Isiah made his prophecies during dark times for Israel in the the second half of the eighth century B.C. when the Northern Kingdom had collapsed and was subjugated to Assyria and Jerusalem had been besieged by the armies of Sennacharib. I feel that we find ourselves in similarly dark times; not only have we lost our voice, we appear to be on a path which will deny us the opportunity to use it should we ever find it again. Religious freedom and conscience seem to be increasingly intolerable to the modern liberal mindset. I truly believe that the loss of an authentic Christian voice from the public sphere will be cataclysmic for Western Society which will slide further into distopia as a myopic focus on individual rights, driven by a selfish egoism ignorant of responsibility, continues to undermine social cohesion and its bedrock, the family. 

If the worst does come to pass, who will be held accountable? I suspect that the greater responsibility will fall upon those privileged enough to be born into the Kingdom yet deigned to keep silent and I count myself among those ranks. To be silent about so great a gift, "a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God", is tantamount to denial and we would do well to remember Christ's own words: 

whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven [1]

The landscape may appear bleak but the Christmas message is primarily one of hope. We cannot change the situation in which we find ourselves though our own will - it can only be achieved by uniting our will to Christ. If we do so, we will find that He gives us our voice through the power of the Holy Spirit and that we may once again take possession of a Church capable of making a much needed contribution to society.

[1] Mt 10:33

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