Weekly Sheet 28th February 2010 Lent II
Posted on: Saturday 27th February 2010
|‘A Matter of Death and Life’
by Fr Alan Gyle, Vicar
The saddest point in our week at St Paul’s was the funeral on Thursday of the outrageously influential fashion designer Alexander McQueen. But that Johnny Depp was staying next door at The Berkeley, and that as a result Wilton Place was swarming with paparazzi hoping to photograph him, we might have succeeded in holding the simple private funeral for close family and friends everyone wanted; as it was there was lots of photography and media coverage – tho’ much of it sensitive. Good to see the paparazzi lower their cameras and stand quietly when the family arrived just before noon – vestiges of decency and respect, even in our frenzied media age, and recognition that his death was not just a story but a tragedy.
A suicide at any age is a tragedy, but the death of someone so greatly respected and prodigiously talented at only forty is a deep shock and raises again for us deep questions about the meaning and value of life, and about how it can be that individuals find themselves so at odds with the idea of life as a ‘gift’ that continuing in it becomes untenable for them and they choose to return that gift to God, as it were ‘unopened’. A funeral in church after a suicide?, some have asked… well, yes, of course. The traditional view of the Church that those who took their own lives were expressing rejection of God has given way to a more informed and pastoral view that those who take their lives are often expressing dissatisfaction with the life they are experiencing, and are – in some way or another – uttering a cry for help. We pray for all his departed children, and commend them to his love and mercy.
No moral condemnation, then – but what moral stance are we to take in the midst of widespread current public debate about suicide and assisted dying, death and life? All around us societal views are in flux. What are we to think, as Christians, about ‘choosing’ death?
Perhaps one key insight is that such issues can never be reduced merely to calculus about death and the mechanics of the ending of life – but, stepping back, must always be addressed as issues about life itself in all its fullness: life not as something that is ours merely to use as we see fit, but rather life as a gift from God to be seized and used gloriously, outrageously, wonderfully and creatively, and always respected as infinitely precious. Darkness and struggle has its place in the midst of all of that, of course: that is what made Lee McQueen so brilliant. The challenge we face is that in the West we have, quietly, become utilitarian and consumerist in our thinking… and in such a thought-world there is little place for respect and wonder, even respect for life itself. In the wider debate humanity is reduced to commodity: value questionable? – then throw it away…
But respect and wonder still lurk – as at noon on Thursday when something – for a moment – halted the clicking of cameras and everybody paused in the face of mystery. We need in our society to give more space to those deep, instinctive, God-given feelings.
Fr Alan Gyle, Vicar.
REMEMBER, YOU CAN SUPPPORT OUR LENT APPEAL BY EATING AT THE SPAGHETTI HOUSE (www.spaghettihouse.co.uk) AND PRESENTING THIS VOUCHER (http://bit.ly/ccbeY0 ) – read more about this at http://bit.ly/LentSpaghetti THIS WEEKEND
Sunday 28th February 2010: Lent II
At 09:00: Family Mass
Celebrant & Preacher Fr Richard Coles
At 11:00: Solemn Mass
Messe Basse – Faure, ‘Long since in Egypt’s plenteous land’ – Parry; Ave verum corpus – Faure;
Preacher: Fr Richard Coles
At 18:00: Evening Prayer (said) THE WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday at 19:00:Setting the Compass (the second of two Tuesday evening reflections for Lent by Fr Alan Gyle)
Wednesday at 18:45:The Wednesday Evening Service
, then The Lent Course at the Grosvenor Chapel 19:45-21:00
NEXT SUNDAY AT ST PAUL’S
The clergy are available daily at service times and by appointment for conversation and counsel; please ring the Parish Office on 020 7201 9999.