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Why Go To Church?

Author(s): Timothy Radcliffe

ISBN13: 9780826499561

ISBN10: 0826499562

Publisher: Veritas

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  • The Eucharist writes Timothy Radcliffe is a three part drama, forming us in faith, hope and love. In this book he examines what it means to celebrate the Eucharist.

    Whilst other people experience it as boring and pointless, listening to the readings, the homily and the creed all take us through the crises and challenges of faith. From the offertory through to the end of the Eucharistic prayer we are caught up in the hope that was Christs, faced with Good Friday. From the Our Father until we are sent on our way, especially in receiving communion, we are formed as people who are capable of love.

  • Timothy Radcliffe

    Timothy Radcliffe was Master of The Dominican Order. He is the winner of the 2007 Michael Ramsey prize for theological writing for his book What is the Point of Being a Christian? He was the author of The Archbishop of Canterbury`s 2009 Lent Book Why Go to Church? He lives in Oxford but spends much of his year giving retreats, lectures and conference key-note addresses in the UK and overseas.

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    This is an important and innovative treatment of the celebration of the symbolic sacrificial meal at the center of Christian worship. Radcliffe provides an accessible but profoundly devout treatment of the experience of Eucharistic worship. With a foreword by Rowan Williams. Recommended for most collections.

    - Graham Christian - Library Journal

    Why Go to Church was chosen as the Archbishop of Canterburys Lent book for 2009 and includes a foreword by Rowan Williams, but reading it is definitely not a penitential exercise.

    Rather, author Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Dominican Order, takes the Mass the central reason for most Catholics and many Anglicans to gather in church-and goes through it element by chronological element, unfolding and enriching the symbolism and meaning of all that goes on during Eucharist. With deceptive simplicity and admirable clarity he looks at the Mass as a drama in three acts: faith, hope, and love.

    We know that on Holy Thursday Jesus bade his friends to do what he had done "in remembrance," but Radcliffe says near the beginning of the book,

    We do not go to the Eucharist to remember an event that is simply past. We are touched by its present happening in our lives. Thomas Aquinas says that we encounter Christ not so much as risen but as rising (homo resurgens). We are contemporary with the drama, rather like the Jews remembering the crossing of the Red Sea as an event that they share in even now, every time they celebrate the Passover. Now we are touched by the inexhaustible novelty of Christ.

    Radcliffe pulls together all sorts of materials to illustrate his points, from the writings of the early church fathers to poets of several different centuries to the work of contemporary novelists, all against the background of Scripture.

    In his chapter on the general intercessions he writes of the very notion of petitioning God, which some people think an unworthy sort of prayer. To the contrary, Radcliffe points out that Jesus told his disciples to pray and in the Lords Prayer demonstrated asking God for what we need. He advises praying for the big things, such as peace in Iraq, but that we also must find time to pray for what we want now. "If we bring to God our real desires," he writes, "then we will be in the presence of God as we are, rather than some false pious persona."

    In the eucharistic prayer we pray for the pope and the local bishop by name as a way to say that our community is not just the group gathered in a parish church on Sunday morning, but the whole church all over the globe, undivided by space, time, or even death:

    The first eucharistic prayer names the martyrs-Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Agathy, Lucy, Agnes, Cecelia, Anastasia. We name them in defiance of the oblivion of death, in the hope of the resurrection. We name the saints, because they are companions in the literal sense of the word, having eaten of the same bread that is Christs Body. They too are part of the friendship which is the church, and which defies the divisions of sin and death.

    He notes that in the past Christians "have often quarreled" over whether the Mass is primarily a meal or a sacrifice, but asserts that this is an unnecessary fight. "In the eucharistic prayer Jesus claims his death as a sacrifice, by which God embraces and consecrates all that is unholy, even death on the cross." Jesus, he says, paid the price for our lack of love. "But the fruition of that sacrifice is Communion, a shared meal." To see only the meal is to ignore Good Friday, he says, but to see only the sacrifice is to ignore Easter Sunday.

    At the end of Mass we are sent forth, as the disciples were sent forth after Jesus returned to his father, "free to leave the church... and go to other people, to share their lives and name the God who is already there."

    Why go to church? Radcliffe suggests that we go "because we are offered a gift, Christs Body and Blood, and it would be odd not to wish to accept what he offers us ...We gather because Christ gathers us...
    "The slow working of grace," he concludes, "will free me to be sent at the end. Why go to church? To be sent from it."

    - Reviewed by Liz OConnor, CHURCH 15th August 2009

  • ACT 1, SCENE1:


    In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Is that one name or three? That may seem an arcane question with which to begin a book written for people who may be wondering why one should go to church at all! If one begins with the mysterious mathematics of the Trinity, then how long will it be before one is counting angels on pinheads? But the question points to why we shall find our home and happiness in the Trinity. Each person of the Trinity exists for and from each other. Their names do not separate them off from each other but show that the Triune God is pure relationship. The Father is only so called because of the Son, and the Son because of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the love between them. For God to be is to-be-related (1).

    We come to church with our fragile identities, often enough constructed over against each other. We come as people whose sense of self is sometimes grounded in competition, striving for superiority or struggling with a sense of inferiority. Even our loves may contain knots of rivalry or reticence. We begin by invoking the Triune God, a home in which we may flourish and find happiness, liberated from the need to fight for our identity, to justify our existence, at ease in the uncompetitive and equal love of the Father and the Son, which is the Holy Spirit.

    As we recall the Trinity we make the sign of the cross, because the cross is, as we shall see, our way into that shared divine life. We make the sign on our body, placing ourselves within the homeland of the Trinity. At the end of Brideshead Revisited, Lord Marchmain, the old reprobate who has fled God most of his life, lies dying. After lie has been anointed, Charles, his son-in-law who has the first glimmerings of faith, watches anxiously to see if he will make the sign of the cross:

    Suddenly Lord Marchmain moved his hand to his forehead; I thought that he had felt the touch of the chrism and was wiping it away.O God, I prayed, dont let him do that. But there was no need for fear; the hand moved slowly down his breast, then to his shoulder and Lord Marchmain made the sign of the cross. Then I knew that the sign I had asked for was not a little thing, not a passing nod of recognition, and a phrase came back to me from my childhood of the veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom (2).

    The Temple veil was torn in two at Christs death, and all that separates us from the Holy of Holies is abolished. The old man has come home to God, and so do we. So we begin every Eucharist with each of us blessing ourselves in Gods name, and we conclude the liturgy with each of us blessing each other, through the person of the priest. Having shared the sacrament, we belong together in this community of mutual blessing in Gods equal love.

    Then we confess our sins. This may seem a gloomy way to begin a celebration. It looks as if to be welcomed to the feast we must first feel bad about ourselves; God will only accept us if we feel guilty. In the marketplace one cannot sell anything without first making people feel the need for it. Life would be intolerable without this latest washing machine or laptop or pair of designer jeans. In a similar way it may appear as if Christians need to create a market for Gods forgiveness. First we must think of ourselves as sinners, induce a sense of self-loathing, so that afterwards we feel the need for Gods mercy and come to church. No wonder Christianity is sometimes seen as a grim religion. A young girl was heard to pray: God, make all bad people good, and make all good people nice (3).

    But we do not confess our sins so as to stir up feelings of guilt. Herbert McCabe wrote: If we go to confession, it is not to plead for forgiveness from God. It is to thank him for it ... When God forgives our sins, he is not changing his mind about us. He is changing our minds about him. He does not change; his mind is never anything but loving; he is love (4). So we begin this first act of the Eucharist by a confession of faith; we believe that all our sins are forgiven before we even commit them. We believe that our God is merciful and loving, and not a wrathful judge. The Bible often speaks of Gods anger, and it is right to speak metaphorically of Gods anger at the suffering and injustice of the world, an anger that we too must learn to feel. But God is not angry at us. Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth-century mystic, wrote that if God were angry with us even for a moment, then we would cease to exist (5).

    Christian leaders frequently lament the loss of a sense of sin in contemporary society. But for Christians, sin is always understood as that which is forgivable (6). We can have no proper sense of sin until we have begun to glimpse Gods unconditional and free loving forgiveness. Telling people that they are sinners prior to that awareness would either be ineffective, like notices commanding people not to throw away litter, or else crushing. If anything, our society suffers from too much guilt: for our failure to be the wonderful parents that our children deserve, for our wealth and comfort in a global society in which millions die each year of starvation, for our share in the despoliation of the planet. Such guilt, an anguished psychological state rather than an objective recognition of failure, may render us hopeless and helpless. Many people instinctively switch off at any mention of Christianity because they already feel so loaded down with half-suppressed guilt that the last thing they need is to be told that they are sinners. But it is because we believe in Gods unconditional love and forgiveness that we may dare to open our eyes to the hurt and the harm of our actions and not panic and be sorry. Sorrow is a healthy awareness of the harm we have caused others and ourselves, whereas feelings of guilt can be a narcissistic concentration on myself: Arent I awful! Sorrow is not a sign that we are far from God, but that Gods healing grace is already at work in us, softening our hearts, making them hearts of flesh rather than stone.

    One icy January evening, I bicycled across London to visit one of my brethren. Stupidly I had forgotten to put on gloves. When I arrived, my hands were so numb that I was unable to feel anything. I had to use my elbow to ring the doorbell. My hands only began to hurt when I came into the warmth of the house and blood returned to my fingers. Similarly sorrow is a sign that we are touched by Gods forgiving warmth. We feel pain because we are unfreezing. This sorrow is often called contrition. The word comes from tritura, the rubbing of things together, as in the threshing of grain, breaking the outer inedible husk. So contrition is the threshing of our hearts, softening them, breaking down the hard husks of our hearts, making them hearts of flesh, able to feel sorrow and joy.

    In the Roman Catholic Eucharist, we say: My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let us call to mind our sins. This word mystery occurs several times in the Eucharist. When the priest adds water to the wine at the preparation of the gifts he says, by the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share our humanity. And after the words of consecration, the priest says, Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: In what sense is the Eucharist a mystery? The word may have entered the Christian vocabulary with Pauls letter to the Ephesians, where he writes that God has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (1:9f.) (7).

    The Eucharist is a mystery not because it is mysterious, but because it is a sign of Gods secret purpose, which is to unite all things in Christ. In the Eucharist we celebrate that the mess of human history, with its violence and sin, its wars and genocides, is somehow, in ways that we cannot now understand, on its way to the kingdom. It is Gods will that we be gathered into unity, reconciled with each other. And so we begin the Eucharist asking the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters, the angels and the saints, the whole vast community of the kingdom. It is a sign that we are willing to be gathered into Gods peace with the rest of creation.
    When the prodigal son is in exile looking after pigs, he wakes up. He came to himself (Luke 15:17), and then he goes back to his home and family. But these are really one and the same, since his exile from his family is an exile from his true identity as son and brother. He only can find himself again with them. Sin is amnesia, the numbing of our memory. Sebastian Moore OSB compares original sin with the Buddhist concept of samsara, forgefulness, but it bears the marks of our western experience, moral, political, adventurous, dangerous and is called by the name of "sin" . . . And in fact we are coming to see that the concept has become distorted in the West by emphasising the moral failure over that of blindness and sleep (8). Paul tells the Romans, like that mother addressing her son, the sleepy bishop: . . . you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep (13:11). We wake up to go to church so as to wake up to who we are. Wake up and smell the coffee!

    One day Dorothy Day dropped into St Josephs Church on Sixth Avenue in New York. She realized that sooner or later I would have to pause in the mad rush of living and remember my first beginning and my last end (9). On the verge of entering the Promised Land, Moses calls the Israelites to repentance by reminding them that you were servants in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Deuteronomy 5.15). We forget that we are actors in a drama which is more ancient than us, and which stretches beyond our imagining. We wake up and resume the journey. Thomas Aquinas wrote a lovely prayer asking for Gods mercy, that he help us travel towards him:

    Fount of mercy, call back the one who flees from you.
    Draw towards you the one who attempts to escape.
    Lift up the one who has fallen.
    Support the one who is standing. Guide the one who is on a journey (10).

    We begin by repenting of our sins, then, not so as to wallow in guilt but to remember that our little personal stories are part of that larger narrative, in which we come from God and go to God, and to take up the journey again. Blind Bartimaeus is stuck by the road. When he hears Jesus he shouts out, Son of David, have mercy on me (Mark 10.48). He receives his sight and walks on with Jesus to Jerusalem. An English man lost in Athens was unable to stop any taxis to take him back to his hotel, and was reduced to shouting to the taxi drivers the only Greek that he knew, Kyrie eleison - Lord, have mercy. Our opening cry at the beginning of the Eucharist expresses our desire too to go home.

    Repentance is, inseparably, an awakening to God, oneself and to each other. A famous Hasidic Rabbi called Zusia said: When I shall face the celestial tribunal, I shall not be asked why I was not Abraham, Jacob or Moses. I shall be asked why I was not Zusia (11). Most sin is pretending to be someone else, admirable or powerful or sexy, who will have value in other peoples eyes and ones own. As with the prodigal son, it is a form of self-exile, taking refuge in an imaginary self. Rowan Williams, a true Welshman, reminds us of the old joke that the Englishman takes pride in being a self-made man, thereby relieving God of a fearful responsibility (12)! Why do we all do this? It is because we fear that without some impressive mask we will not be loved. Herbert McCabe wrote:

    The root of all sin is fear: the very deep fear that we are nothing; the compulsion, therefore, to make something of ourselves, to construct a self-flattering image of ourselves we can worship, to believe in ourselves - our fantasy selves. I think that all sins are failures in being realistic; even the simple everyday sins of the flesh, that seem to come from mere childish greed for pleasure, have their deepest origin in anxiety about whether we really matter, the anxiety that makes us desperate for self-reassurance. To sin is always to construct an illusory self that we can admire, instead of the real self that we can only love (13).

    Often sin has been defined by men, and thus seen typically as self-assertion, pride, and self-centredness. Saiving Goldstein asks whether women might not also have their characteristic sins, which she suggests might be triviality and diffuseness, dependence on others for ones own self-definition, an underdevelopment or negation of the self (14).

    Abandoning these self-images, as macho or sexy or powerful or as subservient and worthless, is both a coming to oneself , like the prodigal son awakening to who he was, but also a sort of loss of self. He must surrender his identity as the prodigal son, and so who will he then be when he arrives home? He cannot know in advance. A drug dealer or arms dealer or someone who has defined himself by his sexual conquests and who repents and abandons an identity does not know who he will become, and this is frightening. He must receive that new identity from the hands of God. Richard Finn OP said: To be forgiven, to become a disciple, is necessarily to abandon those sins that have been part of our lives. Think, for example, what it takes in terms of personal and social identity to abandon sectarianism, homophobia, or nationalism ... What we fear as disintegration, our loss of who we are, is not our undoing, but our making (15). We have to dismantle the small little hollow identities in which we have sheltered so that we can discover who we are in God.

    A South African film, Tsotsi, won the Oscar for the best foreign film in 2006. The title means thug and it is the nickname of a tough young gang leader who lives in Soweto, near Johannesburg. This vast township, of more than a million inhabitants, did not appear oil apartheid maps. It was not part of white geography. But it is there that Tsotsi makes a name for himself through his robberies and violence. One day he steals a car, shooting a woman whom he leaves paralysed, and escapes back home. There he discovers a baby on the back seat. As he comes to love the child he realizes that he must give it back to its parents. We see his gradual transformation, the threshing of his heart. He does not only have to give up the baby but the heroic identity that he has made for himself, to the puzzlement of the
    members of his gang. They can no longer make out who he is, and nor can he. Finally we watch him go back to the home of the babys parents, to hand the child back, with the police waiting to kill or at least arrest him. He is not only surrendering the child whom he loves, but his own identity as a tough gang leader. It is a story of someone who comes home to himself by abandoning an identity, by daring not to know who he is to be. This may involve a radical break with ones past. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: If you board the wrong train, its no use running along the corridor in the wrong direction.

    The drama of grace, becoming people who believe, hope and love, involves the destruction of false images not only of ourselves but also of God. St Thomas Aquinas says that in this world we cannot know God as God is, only as God is not. We have to be liberated from the false ideas of God as the Great Head Teacher in the Sky, the invisible President of the Universe, the Ultimate Insurance Policy or whatever. Faith is a journey into the dark, destroying false idols. In drawing near to the mystery of God I also glimpse the mystery of who I am too. God calls me by my name and it is with him that I shall discover my own identity. John writes: . . . it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). My faith is that I am someone whom God calls by name, and what that means we shall explore in the next chapter.

    We also come back to each other, like the prodigal son coming home to his family. In the Roman Catholic Eucharist, we confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault ... and I asked blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God. That is a lot of people. We come home to the whole Church, the communion of saints and the people beside me in the pews, my family. This is part of being freed from the lonely and glorious exile of being the hero in my private drama and waking up to our family in God. We may come to church wrapped up in the preoccupations of our personal dramas, worrying about our jobs or about what we shall have for lunch and whether the people whom we love still love us. We are caught up in small dramas in which we play the central role. As Bette Midler said in the film Beaches Thats enough about me. What do you think about me? Factor out the ego, M tells James Bond in Casino Royale. We prepare ourselves to receive the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist by being really present to each other, even to the members of our family from whom we may have been half absent and alienated. In that classic film Brief Encounter, made the year I was born, a bored housewife and a GP meet in a railway station and fall in love. Finally they realize that they have no future together. They must break with each other. That evening the husband of Laura, the housewife, says to her: You have been a long way away Yes, she replies. Thank you for coining back to me, he responds. It was not a physical absence, but a mental, spiritual, human absence.

    To come home, the prodigal son must throw away his dignity. He prepares his words: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants (Luke 15:18-19). But the father takes no notice and clothes him in the best robe, and puts a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. The son throws away his dignity and receives more than he ever had before. The father also throws away his dignity, galumphing towards his son without waiting for a word of apology.

    When we confess our sins at the beginning of the Eucharist, we both throw away our dignity and claim it. We cast aside all our ridiculous and laughable pretensions to be important and admirable people because of wealth or status or power, and smile at ourselves. Andrew Carnegie said: Millionaires rarely laugh. Nor can religious fundamentalists. Herbert McCabe again: We can see ourselves as comic figures - everyone who takes himself too solemnly is a bit ridiculous. And this too is to share in Gods own way of seeing things. Our God is amused by his wayward children - especially when they are being very pompous and solemn (16). Shigeto Oshida, the Japanese Dominican and Zen Master, writes of the smell of the ego: We can "smell" the ego sometimes, and steer away from it, that is all. Just laugh it off. When you begin to feel some smell of it, just look at yourself in the mirror and mock yourself, and laugh at yourself (17).

    Angels, G. K. Chesterton famously asserted, can fly because they take themselves lightly. But the fallen angels do not. Satan is traditionally seen as a pompous figure, and that is why in the Middle Ages they knew that the best way to deal with devils was to laugh at them. Gargoyles with grotesque faces defended our holy places with the power of mockery. The fourteenth-century Macclesfield Psalter, for example, is filled with ribald humour, absurd devils and naked bottoms, scratched out by puritans who thought that religion was a more serious matter. Fernando Cervantes demonstrated that people stopped representing the Devil at some point in early modernity not because we ceased to worry about him but because we had become too afraid."

    We need to be liberated from the illusions of heroism. Heroes tend to be serious figures, men and women of destiny on whom we depend. But we must dare to see how absurd we often are. Saints can spot their own pretentiousness and find it funny, even if embarrassing. Samuel Wells contrasts the sort of story which is constructed around a hero, and the story of the saint, in the New Testament sense of one of Gods people:

    The hero is in many ways still the model we look up to in contemporary society - even though we want to be very democratic and egalitarian about heroes and say we can all be heroes spontaneously. We all feel its our job in our generation to make the story come out right, which means stories are told with the heroes at the centre of them and the stories are told to laud the virtues of the hero - for if the hero failed, all would be lost. By contrast, a saint can fail in a way that a hero cant, because the failure of a saint reveals the forgiveness and the new possibilities made in God, and the saint is just a small character in a story thats always fundamentally about God (19).

    A great climax of the liturgical year is Pentecost. But the very next day we are in what is called ordinary time. I used to consider this a disappointment. Why could we not enjoy a few days of Pentecost time? Surely the culmination of Gods presence is the gift of the Spirit who is with us in our ordinary lives. We reject the cultivation of celebrities. Its OK to be ordinary. Celebrities live anxiously in the insecurity of their fame, but ordinary people are ordered to each other, as are the divine persons of the Trinity.

    We confess to each other that we are sinners. We help each other into the freedom of accepting our fragility and weakness, none of us with any grounds for pretension. A story of the desert fathers tells how a very self-satisfied monk called Theopemptus came to see the great Macarius:

    When he was alone with him Macarius asked,How are things going with you?" Theopemptus replied, Thanks to your prayers, all is well. The old man asked, Do you still have to battle with your sexual fantasies? (an interesting conversational gambit!) He answered, No, up to now all is well. He was afraid to admit anything. But the old man said to him,I have lived for many years as an ascetic and everyone sings my praises, but despite my age, I still have trouble with sexual fantasies. Theopemptus said,Well, it is the same with me, to tell the truth. And the old man went on to admit, one by one, all the other fantasies that caused him to struggle, until he had brought Theopemptus to admit all of them himself (20).

    In confessing the mess that he made of his life, the prodigal son has claimed a new dignity. He does not blame anyone else. He refuses to be a victim. George Mackay Brown, the Orkney poet, deeply loved a young woman called Stella Cartwright, who died at a young age of too much whisky, the smiler with knife. She blamed everyone except herself, but there is a beautiful letter towards the end of her life in which Mackay Brown, who had struggled himself with alcohol, invited her to take her life into her own hands and own what she has done and been: My dear Stella, with all your kindness and sweetness and gentleness you can do it , the clue is in your hand - you will stand in the full sun once more (21).

    An even more dramatic example is the story of Dead Man Walking in which Sister Helen Prejean CSJ tells of how she came to visit prisoners on Death Row and to fight against the death penalty. One of the ways in which she loves and cares for these condemned people is by helping them to own up to what they have done, instead of blaming it on their parents, or drugs or the victims. She describes a conversation with Robert Lee Willie, convicted of the murder of Faith:

    If you do die, I say, as your friend, I want to help you to die with integrity, and you cant do that, the way I see it, if you dont squarely own up to the part you played in Faiths death. He is looking straight into my eyes. He is no whiner, and I appreciate that. Not much time. Have to talk straight and true ... I say, You may want to check out some words of Jesus that might have special meaning for you : "You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free." Its in the Gospel of John, chapter 8. And then, a few days later: l find myself now saying to Robert ... words drawn from some force that taps deep and runs strong, and I tell him that despite his crime, despite the terrible pain he has caused, he is a human being and he has a dignity that no one can take from him, that he is a son of God. "Aint nobody ever called me no son of God before", he says and smiles. "Ive been called a son-of-a-you-know-what lots of times but never no son of God" (23).

    So when we confess our sins to you, my brothers and sisters, we stand upright in the sun, and claim our dignity as children of God. No other animal has the dignity of claiming its deeds as its own, or the indignity of refusing to do so, though I have seen dogs trying to give an unconvincing impression of innocence! Lions do not throw up, shaken to the core at not being adequately leonine. Elephants do not roll in the mud to vent their desolation at being so grossly elephantine. Whatever else does or does not separate us from animality, the potential to imagine and body forth transfiguration and to acknowledge disfiguration, is what makes us human. Our sense of indignity is the essence of our dignity. Non sum dignus. Even our contemporary filleted liturgies admit as much (23).

    `But the father said to his servants, "Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." And they began to make merry (Luke 15.22-24). Our confession of sins prepares us for the feast. Note that the father never says to his son,I forgive you. The feast is the forgiveness. In the same way, the Eucharist is the ordinary sacrament of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not something that God offers before he will love us and receive us back. It is simply sharing Gods own life through faith and hope and love.


    Martin Soskice, The Kindness of God, p. 123.
    Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, intro. Frank Kermode, p.137
    Moore, The Contagion of Jesus, p.10.
    McCabe, God, Christ and Us, p. 16.
    The Revelation of Divine Love ?º49, quoted Martin Soskice, p. 144.
    Alison, Undergoing God, p. 61.
    Walsh, The Sacraments of Initiation, p. 23.
    Moore, The Contagion of Jesus, p. 89.
    Elie, The Life You Save, p. 28.
    Thomas Aquinas, Opera Omnia, Parma 1869, Vol. p. 241.
    Wiesel, Souls on Fire, p. 120.
    Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes, p. 48.
    McCabe, God, Christ and Us, p. 17.
    Goldstein, The Human Situation - a Feminine View, Journal of Religion, 40, 1900, pp. 100-12, quoted in Martin Soskice, The Kindness of God, p. 104
    Unpublished sermon.
    McCabe, God, Christ and Us, p. 17
    Compiled Claudia Mattiello, Takamori Soan: Teachings of Shigeto Oshida, a Zen Master, p.38.
    Cervantes, The Devil in the New World.
    Theological Ethics, in Shorrt, Gods Advocates, p. 180.
    Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes, p. 27.
    Ferguson, George Mackay Brown, p. 226.
    Prejean, Dead Man Walking, p. 162.
    Martin, Split Religion, p. 5.
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Why Go To Church?