2016 and a New Year. The shortest day – what John Donne called the Year’s Midnight – has been and gone. We look towards new beginnings, new possibilities as the days grow longer and the seasons change.
I’m still pondering the significance of Christmas, of the birth of the baby Jesus and how that birth wasn’t just a one-off event, but continues to be full of meaning in our lives as a new year begins.
A philosopher called Hannah Arendt once said, in the midst of the dark times just after the Second World War and the horror of the Holocaust that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as mortals, on this earth merely defined by the fact we will all one day die. She said we should think of ourselves as natals. Natals, born to be born and born again, defined by the gift of birth. A profound insight that refused the death camps of Nazism, the evil force of fascism. Hannah Arendt, who lost her Jewish family, called humanity to wake-up to the birth, the promise of each new opportunity. To natality. To wake up to the abundant gift of grace in each moment of our lives.
This is a deeply serious option, I think, to be natals, not mortals. Living by a different truth. To be natal is to see life as stronger than death. To live for joy, peace, love that transform suffering and pain. To open our hearts and minds to see the transcendent that breaks through art, enchants in music, moves in poetry, touches in the sacrament. To open our hearts and minds to a reality that is true. To joy that is something more than happiness; a hope that is more than optimism; love is more than desire.
We can understand God’s promise of life in this way: the promise that enables us to live as natals not mortals. Natals, born each moment to a life of the rich enjoyment of grace.
So that’s how I think the impact of the real message of Christmas continues in our lives. It comes as a revelation of God as a little baby, vulnerable in the world, born in poverty. Joy comes at Christmas, into the depths and darkness of the human condition, reminding us that God breaks down the defences we raise to provide security for ourselves. God breaks through the way we imagine things, and tells us again of love, of joy, of peace.
Throughout January the Cathedral continues its ministry with several special services. Why not come along and experience one of these traditional services?
Sunday, January 17, at 3.30pm, Epiphany carols;
Sunday, January 31, at 3.30pm, Choral Evensong for Candlemas.
All these services are sung by the Cathedral Choir, which is formed of 16 Choristers and 10 Lay Clerks. The traditional Cathedral choir has its roots centuries ago. In order to continue the tradition, St Edmundsbury Cathedral must recruit more Lay Clerks. The Lay Clerks are men who come from many different walks of life and give freely of their time. The Director of Music, James Thomas, is always keen to hear from any Altos, Tenors or Basses who could sing at the Cathedral regularly or as a deputy. There is no cathedral choir school and the boys attend many different schools, some travelling considerable distances each day to attend. Potential Choristers (from school Year 3+) are also invited to get in touch.
Further details at www.stedscathedral.co.uk