Beauty, Faith and Unbelief

'Advent' is a borrowing from Latin, and a superbly felicitous one. It has become one of the most beautiful words in the English language and has survived all attempts to debase it into adv-ertise-ment: a month of hyper-consumerism. As part of the constant drive to increase sales, there is now a Black Friday in the secular calendar. 'In spite of that, we call this Friday Good:' most of those who celebrate the black version would have no idea what Eliot was saying. But ghastliness can be held at bay, without the need for crucifixes and cloves of garlic. Carols will do. Though not unique to England, they are a deeply English form of worship, and seem to express a harmonious faith. That is where my problems start. Although enchanted by the music and its tribute to goodness, I cannot share the faith.

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The Innocence of Uncle Reg

Uncle Reg was a priest in Yorkshire. He looked forward to death with the certainty that it would lead to eternal happiness. On my last visit he pointed out the spot where he wanted to be buried, under the dry-stone wall beside the West Riding church where he used to officiate. It was a beautiful winter’s day. The gravesite was illuminated by a snowy sun; Uncle Reg, by the sunshine of faith. He had fulfilled himself totally. His maximum income from the diocese had been £800 per year, but this had never impeded happiness.

Uncle Reg’s one secular passion (not vice) was motorcycles. The great love of his life (after Christ and the Church) was a Norton 500. As I saw him ascending Pennine hills with the throbbing Norton beneath him, I realized that this was a mechanism for dealing with celibacy. I am sure that this thought had never occurred to him.

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