Thoughts on retreat

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I am now on my pre-ordination retreat in a beautiful part of rural Hertfordshire. As I did on my selection conference in 2012, I’ve brought Austin Farrer’s A Celebration of Faith with me (it’s the book that contains his famous “Walking sacraments” sermon on the priesthood).

This morning, I’ve been reading “Emptying out the sense”, and this passage caught my eye:

There is no short cut to the understanding of God’s promises. You cannot do it by the reason of this world or by logical sleight of hand. You can do it by active faith alone, by believing in God who has promised, by persevering in purity of life, in constant prayer, in Christ’s sacraments, in obedience to every showing of God’s will. Then God will reveal to you his excellent things.

For, says Christ’s apostle, when in the wisdom of God the world failed to know God, it pleased God by the folly of the gospel to save believers. Not but that we speak a wisdom among the fully grown, but a wisdom not of this world, nor of the princes of this world who came to naught.

But we speak God’s wisdom in mystery, the hidden wisdom which God appointed before the ages for our glory.

One of my struggles in training for ordination (I fear it is a struggle that will continue after ordination as well!) is the culture of busy-ness, of tasks and goals and achievements. Of course it’s important to learn theology and to learn to preach and to learn liturgical sense, but it is not sufficient and it shouldn’t be the starting place.

The starting place and the ultimate goal both of ordained ministry and of the whole Christian life is to be caught up in the love of God.

Becoming caught up in that love is both very hard and very easy. (I do not believe that the Church of England is very good at promoting it among its ordinands.) But today, on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I pray for the love of Christ Crucified to take me up, enfold me, surround me, and prepare me for my ordination as a deacon on Sunday and for my ministry that lies ahead.