Thursday, June 28, 2007

A good month for saints

Today the church remembers Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and teacher of the faith...Not someone we focus on every day, but still pretty significant, - and not simply because he provides a pretty clear link, through Polycarp ( whom he had heard preaching during his childhood in Smyrna) with the apostle John (who had apparently preached to Polycarp). (This bit rather reminds me of my childhood piano-teacher, whose piano teacher had been a pupil of a pupil of Chopin - which seemed in her eyes to make me a kind of great-great- grandchild of Chopin).Irenaeus was equally proud of his pedigree as a teacher, and as a priest and bishop - and on the strength of it was an early proponent of the apostolic succession

As a theologian, he spent much of his time contending with the gnostics, whose world view taught that since the material world was dark, corrupt, evil it could have nothing to do with God.
"How can the perfect produce the imperfect, the infinite produce the finite, the spiritual produce the material?" they asked.
Logically, this view also meant that Christ could not have truly and fully taken on human flesh, but simply appeared to have done so, like the avatar of a Hindu god. Of course, if Jesus was not really born he equally did not really suffer or die, but merely appeared to do so - so the resurrection becomes a bit of a non-issue too.
Definitely not good news.
In contrast to this, Irenaeus asserted the reality of the Incarnation

"God became what we are, to make us what he is" . or, if you prefer
"The Word became flesh and lived among us"

I doubt if he was at even the back of Joan Osborne's mind when she wrote her song, but you could certainly say that they sang from the same hymn book!

If God had a name, what would it be?
And would you call it to His face
If you were faced with Him in all His glory?
What would you ask if you had just one question?

What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus Trying to make his way home?

If God had a face, what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like Heaven and in Jesus and the Saints
And all the Prophets?

What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus Trying to make his way home?

I can almost see Irenaeus nodding sagely, as he agreed "That's just the way it is".


Caroline said...

who are you calling a slob? ;)

love that song.

am becoming increasingly worried about your current saint obsession, you do realise your next parish will be one that meets in a school hall and doesn't celebrate easter because the caretaker is on holiday that week? ;)

Kathryn said...

I love it too. So much.
And fret not, after Peter and Paul tomorrow, life becomes very pedestrian...except of course for Thomas and Benedict and John Keble and....