Fr Ken Parker invited Carol O’Connor to give the 5th
Bunyip Lecture at St. Thomas', Bunyip, on Sunday the 2nd of
December 2018. Here is the summary of Carol's paper, which was handed out to attendees.
philosopher questioned the Holy Anthony. “How,” he said, “do you content
yourself, Father, who is denied the comfort of books?” He answered, “My book,
philosopher, is the nature of created things, and as often as I have a mind to
read the words of God, it is at my hand.” Sayings of the Desert Fathers Book XXI
In the Church
cycle, we’re now entering the Year of Luke: praise is a keynote
of this Gospel. It’s a ‘Gospel of messianic joy.’ Luke’s emphasis is
universal salvation; it is laden with practical ethics and causes us reflection
on moral living. Dr
Dorothy Lee, Melbourne New Testament Scholar & Anglican Priest.
What does gift giving mean? As
Christians we believe that the real gift on Christmas Day is the birth of Jesus
Christ, but what is it that we are being given? And how do we live in response
to this gift?
Three of the many
gifts given to us in the birth of Christ Jesus:
gift of relationship
religious books are never an end in themselves - they only ever point the way
towards. They point the way toward the ‘Word made flesh’, it’s up to the reader
to live from the meaning discovered in the book with courage, with a
willingness to risk embodying the Word in themselves.
When we are born,
we are born into relationship. The primary relationship we are born into is
with God. Our first human relationship is with the person or persons who are
our primary care givers. Ideally they are figures of love. To grow and
flourish through childhood we need the other - the one who loves us. The
network extends outwards into community, between cultures. ‘We go to heaven in
one another’s pockets,’ is a phrase quoted by Rowan Williams.
We take community
with us wherever go because we take with us our capacity for relationship in
gift of memory always happens from the place in which we stand in the
present. It’s meaning derives from the relationship we have in God.
writers can give us courage to face our own terrors and examine memories that
are painful. Go to the hard places, especially in your relationship with God,
stand there and see what you can see. Go to the hard places with the eyes of
God. Ask: what can I see or re-see in and from this challenging place?
For Miroslav Volf
it’s important to remember the past rightly. Christ’s Passion and resurrection
need to inform how we engage in the action of remembering.
It’s important to
learn to live theology, not just read it in books. Remember God’s
love in all that you do.
gift of language
writers give us a language that can help steady our feet; words that enable us
to enflesh or put form around our experience. They offer a language, a
vocabulary, upon which I can invite my own experience into and hang my own
thoughts upon. The gift of language can provoke our imagination; push further
the boundaries of reflection. Language grows us.
Rowan Williams & Richard Rohr offer vocabularies that are living and
nuanced. As they’ve drawn from other writers, through their words God speaks to
us. Theirs becomes a language which I can draw from, dwell upon, and in turn
hope God uses through me to speak to others. And this is a gift giving whose
primary source is the Word made flesh.
Williams and David Adam encourage us to take the words we use in our prayer
life seriously. They encourage us to find prayers to sit with, have them walk
them inside us inside as a mantra. And we can only do this when we enter
into ‘slow craft time.’ In his book Holy Living, Rowan Williams
reminds us to stay present ‘where you are, rather than taking refuge in the
infinite smallness of your fantasies.’ Expansion of the heart takes time.
Williams quotes the Welsh saying: ’life is about inhabiting a great hall within
narrow walls.’ P
65. For him, and so many of
these writers, life is about learning to be still and listen, to ponder, to be
fully present to the place you are in.
many forms. God also speaks through the expressive arts: music, poetry, dance,
painting. God’s Word is found in nature and in silence and the unsaid. The
grammar of God is in the nature of created things and lives inside
each one of us.
If our language
serves reconciliation, breaks through the illusion of separation and hate, of
fear and abuse then our lives start to become aligned into the enlarging the
heart of God.
I can purchase or
read all the books about God I like, but if I do not live first from response
to this space of Love, and if my first book is not, as Holy Anthony says, the
nature of created things as seen through Love’s eyes, then what I see will
be forever only an illusion.
The gift of the Word
made flesh, with all its hope and beauty and pain and vulnerability, the
gift of Christ who is born at Christmas, enables us to see through illusion to
Reality. And that’s a Word really worth holding onto.