The earthquake in Haiti has caused devastation in a country already beset by poverty and deprivation.  In addition to the news reports, here is an email from Fr. Kesner Ajax, outlining some of the effects on Haiti’s 180,000 Anglicans:

Dear Friends in Christ:
We have devastating news to share with you from Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake yesterday. According to reports I have received here in Les Cayes, the damage in Port au Prince and areas around it is terrible.
There is no Cathedral. The entire Holy Trinity complex is gone. The convent for the Sisters of St. Margaret is gone. The Bishop’s house is gone. College St. Pierre is gone. The apartment for College St. Pierre is still standing. Bishop no longer has a house in which to live.
In Trouin, four people were killed during a service.
In Grand Colline, the church is gone.
In St. Etienne, the church is gone.
In Les Cayes, BTI is OK, but some people were injured trying to get out of the buildings during the quake. The rectory in Les Cayes is in very bad condition
The Rev. Kesner Ajax
Executive Director, Bishop Tharp Institute (BTI)


Please give what you can to help the people of Haiti.  For details of how to give, or to donate online, please click here.


If We Had a Hammer …

Today is the Feast Day of S. Hilary of Poitiers, a.k.a. Malleus Araianorum, or ‘the Hammer of Arians.’  Hilary was born in around 300 in Poitiers, Gaul.  He married, and had at least one daughter, Abra, who herself went on to become a Saint.  Legend has it that Hilary and his family were originally pagans, but Hilary was always an avid reader, and he literally read himself into the Faith – first embracing salvation by good works, then monotheism, and eventually Christianity via the New Testament.

In around 353, Hilary was unanimously elected as Bishop by the citizens of Poitiers.  Very quickly, he came into conflict with powerful Arian forces within the Church.  Arianism, to cut a long story short and oversimplify things ridiculously, was the heresy that claimed that Jesus was a nice bloke but not God incarnate.  They were a powerful lobby within the Church at the time, and they managed to get Hilary exiled from his See.

Hilary, unlike some clerics we could name, did not waste his time in exile on silly pursuits like gardening and making cakes.  He wrote a couple of weighty treatises refuting Arianism, and travelled around Italy and Asia Minor asserting the truth of Orthodoxy and trying to bring Arians back to the full faith.  In fact, he caused so much trouble in Constantinople that the Arians there had him sent back to Poitiers – and thus his exile was ended for the same reason that it was begun.

His own people loved him, and so did his best student Martin, who went on to become S. Martin of Tours.  But Hilary was by no means universally popular.  The Golden Legend tells the story of an Arian Pope called Leo who called Hilary “a cock, and not the son of a hen.”  We have no idea what he meant.  Mind you, the Pope soon got his come-uppance, as he died Elvis-style on the toilet, when “by the conduit of his nether part [he] voided out all the entrails of his body.”  Nice.

Moving swiftly onwards …  

All this talk of hammering the Arians reminds us that the Vicar has been displaying some strange (or should we say, stranger) behaviour of late, and has frequently been spotted wandering around the garden with a hammer and a kettle of boiling water.  We were beginning to wonder whether she was a serial killer, but thus far all her aggression seems to have been taken out on the ice in the bird bath.

Thankfully, this violent attitude seems to be melting away with the snow, and today the birds have been happily bathing and drinking without any intervention from the Vicar.  Meanwhile, the Diocese has finally realised that she is completely bonkers, and has published a warning on their website, in the form of a picture of the Holy Wellies.

We, on the other hand, would not stoop so low, and so instead we present a couple of snaps of the Church in the snow.




Magi Moments

Today is officially the Feast of the Epiphany, but along with most of the Western Church, we celebrated this on Sunday (presumably because nobody comes to Church in the week anymore, or perhaps because someone knew the Magi would be likely to get snowed in on the A32 if we left it any longer).

So, instead we use today to concentrate on the Magi themselves.  They are, in fact, canonised as Saints under the names Ss. Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar – though Christians in other places give them different names, and the Gospel never tells us how many Magi there actually were.  In the West, all sorts of other traditions have been attributed to the Magi – such as transforming them into Kings, or speculating that one was from Africa, one from Arabia and one from China – but these are all later developments (or revealed by the Holy Spirit, or completely made up, depending on your point of view).

Saint Balthasar is, apparently, the Patron Saint of epileptics, playing card manufacturers and people who saw things up.  Remember him if you ever find yourself in an American horror movie, playing Poker with an epileptic wielding a chainsaw.  You will need all the help you can get.

Anyway, back to the Magi.  S. Matthew calls them simply Magoi (from which, obviously, we get our English word Magi).  The word does refer to the Priestly caste in the Persian Zoroastrastrian religion, but it’s more probable that the Bible uses it in a more general sense, to refer to people who were learned in some faintly esoteric Eastern philosophy. 

The NRSV offers “astrologers” as an alternative translation, but that puts us in mind of Russell Grant, which rather spoils the beauty of the image.

Whoever they were, we do know from the Bible that they brought Christ gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

  There are several interpretations of this (The Golden Legend, as always, lists a few), but the commonly accepted one in the West is that gold symbolises Christ’s kingship, frankincense recognises his divinity and myrrh prefigures his death and burial after the Crucifixion.

The other thing the Gospel account tells us is that pesontes prosekunesan auto.  Some folks think this is a reference to prostration, others to kneeling or genuflecting.  But the Greek literally means “having fallen down, they worshipped him.” 

Well, if it’s good enough for the Vicar …

All White on the Night

For the last few days, it seems as if everyone in Britain has had snow except us.  Just when the Vicar was starting to get really grumpy about this, the Arctic Oscillation finally obliged us with the white stuff this evening.

The Vicar, clad in two wellington boots (sensible), one gardening glove (slightly bizarre) and no coat (downright idiotic), made a pathetic excuse about having to put out the fox’s dinner, then ran around the garden for ages in a barely contained state of overexcitement.

We, of course, were more circumspect about the whole thing, and spent most of the evening just looking at the snow from the warmth and safety of the study.  But, snow is snow, and you do have to have a little walk in it just to make sure your paws are still waterproof.  So, for your edification and delight, we present the following pics:

Does she expect us to go out in that?

So that's where it comes from!

Cover me, I'm going out there ...

Anyone know how you build an igloo?

Actually, the novelty's wearing off now.

Told you.

And then, dear Reader, we made our excuses and left ...

Advent Gingerbread

Oh dear.  The Saint Nick’s Day Fayre is approaching once more (yes, we know Saint Nick’s Day was a while back, but don’t pick holes in the Parish programme please).  You might think this is a fun and frolicsome event for the whole family, but you would be wrong.  Very wrong.

Not content with trying to poison the congregation by making them fairy cakes, the Vicar is now threatening to embark on a new culinary endeavour and make cookies to sell – yes, sell – to the unsuspecting people of Forton.  We all know the Vicar is less than domesticated, and frankly, dear reader, this can only end badly.

Luckily we have found a natty little place on the Internet where it’s possible to enjoy all the fun of the icing without any of the actual getting your paws dirty.  In order to recommend this (much safer) course of action to the Vicar, we have embarked on our own little project.  Hopefully it will remind her that she is more suited to the Sanctuary than the kitchen.  You can view our offering by clicking here.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Are you a Bishop, Priest, Deacon or Ordinand in the Church of England?  Confused by the recent goings-on in the Anglican Communion?  Wondering what the future will hold for your ministry?

Don’t just sit around singing old Clash hits.  Use this handy flowchart to find out where you ought to be.

So much easier than listening to the Holy Spirit.


The Pig of Happiness

[clearspring_widget title=”The Pig of Happiness” wid=”4ae180cf359d3d7c” pid=”4af873cfbc3f7f8b” width=”340″ height=”500″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]