Category Archives: Belfast Pride 2012
℣ Laudetur Jesus Christus
℟ In æternum! Amen.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
The prayefulness of this poem is obvious – The Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins is always bracketed together with the Cistercian Thomas Merton and Cardinal John Henry Newman as the Great Literary Priests in the English language. Well, the great literary Catholic priests. Let us not, especially in the home of our hosts, forget the many, considerably greater, literary contributions made by Anglican divines since Swift and John Donne.
If you know what to look for, however, there is a subtle framing to this verse. In schools run by Catholic religious orders, it is, to this day, traditional to address teachers both lay and clerical with Latin greetings in praise of God – the greeting I made before reading the poem, to which Michael was primed to respond, is the greeting used in schools of the Piarist Order, one of which I attended.
In Jesuit schools, it is additionally, customary to write at the head and the foot of assignments, exercises and examination papers a pair of mottoes – at the head, Ad majorem Dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God), abbreviated to A.M.D.G., and Laus Deo semper (Praise be to God always), abbreviated to L.D.S, at the foot. Both of these have echoes in the first and last lines of the poem. “Glory be to god”, and “praise Him”.
Which not only sets this poem deeply in Hopkins’ own Jesuit spirituality, but makes it a setting-forth, even a miniature essay.
To the poet, it is difference, multiplicity, the breaking-up and the tension, that are the true glory of creation. Look particularly at the use of the word “counter” at the beginning of the second verse. – “All things counter, original, spare, strange” – Hopkins’s naturalistic, that is nature-based, view – well, he was a Victorian poet, he could not fail to be in love with Nature – finds the truest, deepest maniestation of God in the varied, the evolving, even in opposition. Hopkins strikes a slightly Eastern tone in his view of the world as the product of creative tension. I don’t know enough about the concepts of yin and yang to cite them here, but it is impossible not to see in this poem a hymn of praise for difference, even for spiritual conflict. As the poet here strikes a slightly Eastern tone, I am reminded of the Book of Wisdom, itself a bridge between traditional Jewish teaching and the Platonic culture of the Hellenists who would be so disparaged by St. Paul three centuries later. In its Eleventh Chapter, it says, “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?”
The Kingdom of God is not, and will never be, a monoculture, any more than Creation is a fixed display in a glass vitrine, being calmly curated by a largely uninvolved God and a mute, subservient Humanity. Many people, as groups and as individuals, have had to fight for their own, full place in the community of belief. Hopkins, whom I think of as a warm, troubled slightly fragile Fr. Gerard, might point out to us that that fight itself is a manifestation of the blessed “counter-ness” within which the Glory of God is to be found, and for which He must be praised.
This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Monday 30 July 2012.
There are good reasons to be afraid.
A few years ago, I was walking from town to the Clonard area where I was living. It was late at night, and I had spent my money on a few pints with friends. I realised as I was leaving town that my mobile phone was out of battery. Never mind, I thought – I’ve walked this road hundreds of times.
As I was walking, and it was fairly deserted, I noticed a man on the other side of the road – he was kicking a fence. He looked distressed and angry. As I was looking at him, speeding along, he looked up and noticed me. He ran across the road and ran after me. I didn’t know whether to run or shout, or hit him, or what.
He grabbed my jacket, had his face in my face, and started yelling “give me one good reason not to hit you” he said over and over. His eyes were bright, his pupils were tiny. He was wearing a denim jacket and jeans.
Give me one good reason not to hit you, he said. Give me one good reason not to hit you. Let me repeat. There are good reasons to be afraid.
Where do you feel fear in your body? There are the shaking hands. There is the feeling that your stomach is turning over. There is a beating heart. There is a peculiar lightness in the chest. There is the realisation that your body has begun to operate differently. Whatever food your stomach has been digesting is now not being digested as your body channels energy and blood away from non-essential activities to essential ones – fright or flight. You can probably run faster, react quicker and bleed faster when you’re frightened.
If you search the biblical texts for “do not be afraid” you come up with a long list – 67 to be exact. And that is only one phrase – there are also phrases like “fear not” or “do not fear”, each saying the same thing. You are afraid. There might be a good rason to be afraid. But do not, in the face of the good reasons to be afraid, do not be afraid.1
The Hebrew word for fear “yare” 2 combines within it something fascinating – the sensation of being afraid as well as to revere. The word used in the Christian scriptures for fear, “phobeo”3 is where the english word ‘phobia’ comes from. And this too, carries an implication both of alarm as well as reverence.
What is interesting in Irish is that the word “eagla” meaning fear, forms a part a phrase that means “just in case” the phrase is “ar eagla na heagla” – it literally translates “for fear of fear” or “on the fear of the fear”. The glorious power of fear, the level of reverence that certain fears evoke in us is one that the biblical text seeks to move us from. Don’t be so frightened of fear that you make of it a god.
When the man had his hand on my coat jacket and was telling me “give me one good reason not to hit you”, I had, in my mind at that particular time, a phrase from the theologian Walter Wink spinning round. He said that we should use powerlessness to expose the vulgarity of the abuse of powerfulness. So, frightened, petrified really, aware that I was slightly bigger than this guy, but he was so pumped up on god knows what, I said to him “you have frightened me”. He said “what?” I said “You have really frightened me, I am very afraid”. He stood back, and started falling apart.
What I think the biblical texts that tell us not to fear are doing are not telling us that there isn’t anything to be afraid of. There clearly is plenty to be afraid of. Rather, they are telling us that fear is not the god. When we are frightened, everything else becomes secondary – the digestion of our food, rational thought, our moral thoughts about using violence, we revert to tribalisms, us against them. We discover ourselves in a state of frenzy, and we have made of fear an arbitrary god who dictates reactive impulses with no integrity, moral code or love.
No wonder that the writer of the epistles of John wrote “in perfect love there is no fear”. The opposite of fear is not fearlessness, it is love. In love you can be afraid, but there is something deeper in love than there is in the hollowness of fear.
To open a biblical text a little, lets look at the text in John where Jesus has walked across the water to the disciples.
This scene takes place in direct relation to the scene before. Jesus and the disciples were on a hill, and Jesus asked the disciples how the people who were following, large crowds as a matter of fact, could be fed. As you may know he performed a miracle that came from the generosity of a small boy who had small loaves, small loaves of the cheap kind, barley, the first to be harvested, and while cheap it was nonetheless the loaf that would be offered in the religious rites. He brought loaves and fish and it was broken and it was enough. The disciples carried twelve baskets, a reminder of the story of their community – from the harrowing story of slavery in Egypt, from years wandering in the desert, here they are now, on the hillside that might even have green grass (Mk. 6:39) having a picnic that comes from the realisation that even the littlest among us, with the littlest offering of humble food can be a source of goodness. The people, understandably, want to make him king. Who wouldn’t? Having a king like this would have been a good thing. There was nothing to fear.
Jesus goes up to the top of the mountain to hide from those who wished to make him king, and when he came down, the disciples, who had been waiting for him, had had to set out in the dark night across the lake to get to the other side. There was a storm brewing. Presumably they could see little. Stormy nights usually have clouds so the moonlight and starlight was presumably not helping. Could they see their direction? Could they find their mooring? Could they even stop? John writes taht Jesus was seen, walking across the water, towards them. There are two levels of this. The second is that he was walking on the water, like Ruah hovering over the chaos of the waters. The first, however, is that they could see him at all. If they couldn’t see anything, how could they see him? Did he, like the awkward drama sketches of religious groups, have a glow, or white clothing? They wereafraid. They were in the middle of the water, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night and here was this picnicgod who had been so accessible earlier on being elusive and mysterious now, there was the mixture of fear and reverence. He said two things to him. He said “do not be afraid” and “it is I”.
In the midst of fear, perhaps we need to have someone to turn to. Not because we are not afraid. Not because there is nothing to fear, but because there is something about being with someone when we are afraid. Our faith calls us to not be afraid.
John O Donohue said that when he was afraid, he would put a chair in a room with him. He would look at the chair and he would say exactly, exactly, what he is afraid of. I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of my health diminishing. I am afraid of loosing this friendship. I am afraid of loosing my job. I am afraid of rejection from family when they find out I am gay. I am afraid I will be alone.
Do not be afraid sounds like a large ask for these enormous fears. What we are hearing from the biblical text is not that fear is groundless – after all, it only might be groundless, you will only probably be okay – but that we should not make fear a god. There is something in the integrity of naming our own story, of our own code, of having a way to live in fear, rather than being so frightened of fear that we have no code.
This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Sunday 29 July 2012.
1 Gen 15:1, Gen. 21:17, Gen. 26:24, Gen. 35:17, Gen. 43:23, Gen. 46:3, Gen. 50:19, Ex. 14:13, Ex. 20:20, Num. 21:34, Deut. 7:18, Josh. 10:25, Josh. 11:6, Ruth 3:11, 1Sam. 4:20, 1Sam. 12:20, 1Sam. 22:23, 1Sam. 23:17, 2Sam. 9:7, 2Sam. 13:28, 1Kings 17:13, 2Kings 1:15, 2Kings 6:16, 2Kings 19:6, 2Kings 25:24, 1Chr. 22:13, 1Chr. 28:20, 2Chr. 32:7, Neh. 4:14, Psa. 49:16, Prov. 3:25, Is. 10:24, Is. 37:6, Is. 41:10, Jer. 1:8, Jer. 10:5, Jer. 40:9, Jer. 42:11, Ezek. 2:6, Zech. 8:13, Zech. 8:15, Tob. 4:8, Tob. 4:21, Tob. 6:18, Tob. 12:17, Judith 11:1, 1Mac. 3:22, 2Esdr. 6:33, 2Esdr. 10:55, Matt. 1:20, Matt. 10:31, Matt. 14:27, Matt. 17:7, Matt. 28:5, Matt. 28:10, Mark 6:50, Luke 1:13. Luke 1:30, Luke 2:10, Luke 5:10, Luke 12:7, Luke 12:32, John 6:20, John 12:15, Acts 18:9, Acts 27:24, Rev. 1:17
2 yare; a primitive root; to fear; morally, to revere; caus. to frighten: — affright, be (make) afraid, dread(-ful), (put in) fear(-ful, -fully, -ing), (be had in) reverence(-end), x see, terrible (act, -ness, thing).
The first two of our events during Belfast Pride 2012 take place today, Sunday 29 July.
At 6pm, the first 15 minutes with Christ service takes place in St George’s Church, in High Street, Belfast. Then at 7, also in St George’s, we are showing the film Love Free or Die, which is about Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop.
15 minutes with Christ takes place every evening at the same time and location this week, with the final service on the day of the Belfast Pride parade, Saturday 4 August.
Also today, All Souls’ Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church is holding a discussion The Right to Gay Marriage led by Reverend Chris Hudson MBE. It starts at 4pm, so unfortunately neither Michael nor I will be able to be there, but we wish them all the best. Michael and I had our relationship blessed in All Souls’ on the 7 May 2011. We believe this was the first same-sex union to be publicly celebrated in a church in Northern Ireland in recent history.
When I was confirmed by Bishop Poyntz back in December 1991, we were instructed that we ought to pray daily. Taking a few minutes to be with God is important to allow us to listen to Him and to praise, thank, and worship Him as well.
On Sunday 29 July 2012, there will begin a week-long series of short services in St George’s Parish Church, Belfast that will be just 15 minutes in length. They begin each evening at six o’clock and are planned to take place in the choir. Over the course of the week, we will hear readings from the Lectionary, as well as thoughts from a range of speakers from across the four main churches.
The series is being organised and run by Faith and Pride to provide Christian spirituality to the many LGBT Christians and supporters who will be enjoying the Belfast Pride Festival. We look forward to welcoming you there as we experience the hospitality of Fr Brian Stewart and the Parish of St George.
Hope to see you there.
We are all used to hearing about the anti-gay Christian protestors at the Belfast Pride parade. Faith and Pride is about showing you can be gay and Christian, so in conjunction with Accepting Sexuality and Changing Attitude Ireland, we are organising something different this year.
We are going to get together a group of Christians who support pride. Rather than walking in the parade, we will be standing on High Street, behind a Faith and Pride banner, holding pro-gay signs and cheering the parade on. The participants in the parade will then see our message of accepting, inclusive Christianity where love is love, regardless of gender. The parade starts at 12 noon on Saturday 4 August. Our group will be assembling from 10.30 at St George’s Church on High Street.
If you are Christian and would like to be involved, please contact us using this form.
In conjunction with Changing Attitude Ireland and Accepting Sexuality, we are holding several events during Belfast Pride 2012. More details…
The theme for this years Faith and Pride event in July is Fear Not, taken from Luke 12:32.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
As with last year, the event will consist of two talks, each about half an hour long. If you would like to give one of the talks, or be involved in any way, please contact us. Although Faith and Pride is a Christian organisation, contributors do not have to be Christian. Contributions should reflect the theme of Fear Not in some way, and should be consistent with our ethos: “We’re not about arguing or putting down someone else’s view. We’re putting forward an alternative view.”
We also invite submissions of papers and articles of interest to gay Christians. Although articles and papers do not have to have a theme of Fear Not, they should still be consistent with our ethos.