In 1547 an Italian, called Peter Martyr Vermigli, was appointed to be the Regius Professor of Theology at Oxford. Previously he had been an Augustinian monk at Fiesole, and had embraced the Reformation cause. He sought refuge in England, which had by the time of his appointment seen the reformed Church of England firmly established. His Philosophical Works make for heavy reading, but they do contain some gems, particularly when he writes about the resurrection. Here are some of his words:
“If one set of qualities and affections belongs to children and another to youths and to old people, it is still the same person and the same man in childhood, youth and old age. Thus we can define the resurrection of the dead this way: it is a new union of the soul with the body by the force or power of God.” “Let us talk of the seed of the vine: its body is so small that it can hardly be held between two little fingers. Where are the roots in it, and the trunk of the roots, or the complex of tentacles? The shade of its foliage? Where the beauty of the grape clusters? Although that seed is very dry, from it winepresses overflow with floods of grape juice. These things happen daily in nature, so we should reflect that whenever our bodies are sent to the tomb, the seeds of the resurrection are being committed to the furrows for a second renewal.” “Sparkling gems are commonly collected from the caves of the earth.”
Reading these words, I am reminded of Thomas Gray’s Elegy written in a Country Churchyard where we read the verse,
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
In these excerpts we are encouraged to regard people through the eyes of God, who views us as something valuable, beautiful and precious. The resurrection speaks of God restoring us to our true worth in his sight. So may you have a blessed and joyful Easter, and may all who we have loved and have gone before us enjoy the harvest of their lives in God’s presence.
In the brave new world of the 21st century, we seem unable to decide what the
true value of life is. We find increasingly acceptable, under the PC banner,
the destruction of our future life potential in disposing of our inconvenient or
disfigured young before birth, and equally find our elderly a burden. And yet
we spend a fortune on stem-cell research to prolong and extend the quality of
life. For argument’s sake, suppose we did achieve immortality in our finite
terms, what would it be like? Jonathan Swift, in his celebrated Gulliver’s
Travels, envisaged such a society with the immortal Stuldbrugs, who lived on
the flying island of Laputa. But they were not happy “bunnies”; rather they
had become the most miserable of creatures who were dreadfully boring to
themselves and to others.
What a contrast this distopian world is to Jesus’ claim that “my kingdom is
not of this world” (John 18.36) and “I am come that you may have life - life in
all its fullness.” (John 10.10)! The inevitability of death is not a negative
phase in our life, but a step that brings us closer to something more permanent
and enduring than what this world could possibly ever give. Throughout life
many of us have been striving to get close to God, through death we are enfolded
by him. November is the month when we remember our departed
loved ones who have gone before us. On Sunday 31st October we celebrate
All Saints (Mass at 11 am. in La Chapelle), and on 2nd November we commemorate
All Souls (Mass at 7 pm. in the Oratory). November 14 is Remembrance
Sunday, Mass at Bocé 11 am. Lists for names of those to be remembered
will be available, please take the opportunity to remember your loved
ones in this memorial and, may we all merrily meet in heaven.