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©2002 The Society of
Archbishop Justus, Ltd


Hallo again to all.

This Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension, the fortieth day of Easter. On this day we celebrate the elevation of Christ into heaven in the presence of His disciples. A quick and unscientific poll showed that many Anglican churches do not have a specific celebration of the Ascension.

We remember vividly, when we first learned about the Ascension in our Bible reading, thinking 'Oh well. It's a good thing that Thomas expressed his doubt when he did, because he'd not get another chance. And pity someone who doubts as much as Thomas; that person won't be able to poke a finger into the wound and see for himself'.

Ascension, by Lee Barth

So much of modern life, perhaps since the middle of the 19th century, seems to be based on the principle of 'seeing is believing'. Show me. Give me evidence. Give me proof. Numbers. Data. Chains of evidence. While Nazi 'racial science' antics served to discredit data qua data, the rationalist need to see in order to believe is almost universal in modern life.

If the Victorians developed this attitude—brooding all the while and suffering from the crisis of faith that this provoked—surely the late 20th-century perfected it. We're supposedly cynical about what we can't see, prove, touch, witness, experience. What a shame. We've always preferred to think that believing is seeing.

Our News Centre notes that in The Telegraph (UK) Christopher Howse writes about 'a new painting in Manchester Cathedral, a triptych by Mark Cazalet'. It represents the Holy Trinity with a couple eating fish and chips near a bottle of ketchup on a table and Howse writes:

The depiction of the triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, has always been a difficulty in Christian art. Although Christians are always being told not to think of God as an old man with a white beard, such a representation in art was always fairly rare, for everyone knew God was a spirit, with no body.

The doctrine of the Trinity, indeed much of Christian theology, is grounded in the unseen. If present-day culture demands that you only believe what you can see or what can be proved, then how can a resident of the modern Western world believe in the Trinity? The answer is at once simple and mystical: first you believe it, then you see it.

We remember the Latin phrase Lex orandi, lex credendi: 'Praying shapes believing'. Our belief in the Trinity is enough to help us see it almost anywhere, and Howse's reflection on Cazalet's painting makes us even more confident that believing is indeed seeing. If you believe that something can be seen, and your belief is powerful enough, and the image contains the right symbols (perhaps only mystically), then you will see it. One cannot see the Trinity, at least not with one's eyes. But you can see it with your mind, letting the meaning go directly from the symbols to your understanding, guided and shaped by your belief. We feel lucky to have found our faith, kept our beliefs, and we are grateful to God for giving us the gift that believing is seeing. It makes our lives so much richer.

We believe we'll see you next week. And if your church does not celebrate it, do take a moment on Thursday to remember the Ascension.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 5 May 2002