Archbishop Clarke stresses ‘collaboration’ and ‘courtesy’ in Enthronement sermon
Preaching last Saturday (15th December) at his Enthronement in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, the new Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, focused on the themes of ‘courtesy’ and ‘collaboration’.
Dr Clarke told the packed Cathedral that it would be a mistake to believe that the ministry of any bishop or archbishop was simply the ministry of an individual and that, rather, “it is an entering into the ministry of Jesus Christ to the world, and it is a ministry that is to be undertaken in a firm collaboration with the whole people of God”.
However, Archbishop Clarke added that there were also times when the individual must make “final decisions that are not popular”, the fourth century St Ambrose of Milan having said that a bishop could do “nothing more perilous before God and shameful before the people than fail to express freely his own thoughts”.
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, THE PRINCE OF PEACE
On a clear winter’s night, the sky is a truly amazing spectacle. The distant stars, even though tiny, shine brightly. The late astronomer, the celebrated Sir Patrick Moore, who was the first director of the Armagh Planetarium, did much not only to make people aware of the sky at night but also to consider the mysteries of the Universe. In looking up, we may indeed also be drawn to look beyond ourselves, reaching out in spirit to the creator God. Those stars at night are bright, despite being so small against the backdrop of the immensity of space, but the truth is that in darkness every light is striking – and the darker the darkness becomes so every light becomes even more striking.
When St John, in the Christmas Gospel, refers to Christ as the true light coming into the world, a statement is made that is far reaching in its implications, because Christ, as the true light, utterly shatters and scatters the darkness of the world forever. The baby of Bethlehem, small and fragile as a human being, brought his light of transforming power into this world, showing us the way to fullness of life and true communion with God.
The light of Christ is the light that guides us on our journey through life, illuminating the way but also making clear our destination: we travel by this light, and to this light. The light of the Gospel undermines the dark ways of the world, the dark wisdom of the world, pointing instead with unmistakable clarity to the much, much deeper and richer wisdom of God.
At Christmas, we celebrate the light that is brought by the Prince of Peace. In Northern Ireland, so many people value immeasurably the peace that has been achieved in recent years and, for that reason, have been both shocked and disheartened that the community has faced renewed violence and intimidation of the most serious nature. Flags and emblems can raise emotions, no doubt, but people, no matter how emotional they feel, do not have the right to break the law because they do not like a particular decision made by those duly elected to make such decisions. There is the right to lawful protest, but not to lawlessness, not to violence, not to intimidation.
When contention arises, the way that is inspired by the Christ Child and by all that Jesus said and did during his earthly life is the way that remembers how the Kingdom of God – and no earthly realm – must be every person’s first and overriding loyalty. The call to see this, and to heed this, is the call to see and to heed the deeper and richer wisdom of God.
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Letters to the Editor
The Masonic Order
In his letter (Gazette, 7th December), the Public Relations Officer of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland, Michael Holden, states that the Grand Lodge is “trying to be open and welcoming about the organisation”.
Is this a new departure for an organisation that holds its members under such a level of threat not to reveal its secrets to the point that it can confidently state that outsiders don’t know what they are talking about when they raise concerns about the order?
Albeit some 32 years have elapsed since I left, but I did spend 14 years as a member, rising through all the offices of the Craft Degrees to become Master of my Lodge, and whilst there may have been changes over the years, I doubt that the essential teachings have been changed.
Readers should know that, from the start, freemasons are sworn to secrecy, the oaths they take being reinforced by the threat of violent punishment such as “having their throat cut across” or “their bodies sawn in twain” should “they ever reveal aught of the hidden secrets which have now or may hereafter become known to them”.
I am aware that these physical punishments are not carried out as freemasonry claims to be speculative and not operative, but there is a second sting to the oaths that are taken in that the candidate is warned of the more effective punishment of being regarded as “base, faithless and unworthy of being received amongst men of honour”, should he ever reveal any part of any secret.
When I left the Masonic Order, I felt under a burden which was only relieved when I received the freedom of specific prayer. Over the years since then, I have had the privilege of helping others also to become free. Readers should also be aware that no mainstream Church encourages men to enter freemasonry; in fact, the opposite is the case.
For example, the Roman Catholic Church still lists membership as a mortal sin and the Church of Ireland at General Synod in 2005, after in-depth study and visits to Freemasons’ Hall in Molesworth Street, Dublin, declared that the “religious aspect of Freemasonry … does not equate with the fulness of the Christian teaching of the Church of Ireland”.
Peter T. Hanna (The Revd), Innishannon Co. Cork
Prayer for Peace at Belfast City Hall
Some linked arms, some held hands, some hugged – and together we all prayed.
On Saturday morning [15th December] at 8.30am approximately 1,000 Christians from all denominations, including Church leaders, formed an unbroken chain the whole way around the City Hall in Belfast and prayed.
A whistle was blown at 8.30am to commence the prayers when we prayed for peace, for the city, for our nation, for our leaders and for God’s presence to be known among all our people.
At 8.35am a second whistle was blown to signal the end of our prayers. People then feely moved on and went about Christmas shopping or visited some local coffee shops.
The event was organised by a group of friends, Alain Emerson (24/7 Prayer), Andrew Masters (What Now), David Dickinson (Alpha) and myself. We all wanted to react not in protest but in prayer to the current events that have taken place over the last few weeks in our city and towns.
At this time of Christmas, it was a symbol of unity and of hope, and a testimony to the power of standing together in prayer. Please keep praying.
Jasper Rutherford (Church Army and Summer Madness) The Old Rectory 217 Holywood Road Belfast BT4 2DH
Columns & Features
- Focus on Limerick and Killaloe
- Soap – Down at St. David’s
- Rethinking Church – Stephen Neil – A Christmas message from Monty Python
- Life Lines – Ron Elsdon – One born every minute?
- Gallery – Pictures by Paul Harron and Gerald Macartney of the occasion of the Enthronement of the Most Revd Richard Clarke as Archbishop of Armagh on Saturday 15th December
- Christmas Messages
Please note: There will be no issue of the Gazette on Friday 28th December. The next issue will be on Friday 4th January 2013. Gazette deliveries to shops in the Republic of Ireland will begin with the issue dated 4th January 2013.