Outlook Issue 15 Winter 2011
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Spiritual Life (2)
Love thy neighbour The recent Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, falls every year ten days after Rosh Hashanah, the New Year festival. On Rosh Hashanah God’s Judgment is proclaimed, but only the completely righteous and the completely wicked receive judgment. Everyone else is given a ten day reprieve to do something about their sins: to repent and seek forgiveness from God for sins against him and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation from the people we have sinned against. On Yom Kippur this whole act of penitence and reconciliation is offered to God. But God will only forgive sins against others if the person sinned against has forgiven them, and she and the sinner are reconciled. To do otherwise would neither be an act of justice or an act of love. We Western Christians appear to have forgotten this. In our traditional Book of Common Prayer form of confession we acknowledge our sins against God and ask his forgiveness to avert his wrath and indignation. In the two alternative confessions in the Order One Eucharist we mention sins against our neighbours, but it is to God we go for forgiveness. In the second form of invitation to confession (Common Worship, page 275) we have an indication that reconciliation is needed, but it falls short of Jesus’ teaching. ‘So, when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.’ (Matthew 5.23-24). At every Eucharist we bring gifts of bread and wine to God’s altar. We do so in the knowledge that no one of us is fully reconciled to the rest of humanity. But we know that we should be; God’s will is that we are. All we can say is that we are trying. As a mark of that willingness to be reconciled to each other, before we present our gifts we exchange a sign of peace, of care, of love, of reconciliation. To me the Peace is one of the great high moments of the Eucharist. It is imperfect and inadequate, but at least it shows that we recognize the kind of relationship God wills for us, and that we are trying to achieve it. And it allows us to move on: to present our gifts of bread and wine and to receive them back, transformed by his love into the body and blood of his son. John Hare