I am grateful to Chalcedon and Dave Smith for their help in trying to understand the language of Marian veneration. But I still feel, as I did reading David Monier-Williams’ explanation of the ‘hows’ of therapy as though I am in the presence of something designed to complicate matters in a way that allows those conveying the language to exercise power; it is the creation of an hieratic priesthood which has privileged access to secret mysteries cloaked in a language of social exclusion: don’t understand it? You are shut out, unless, that is, you consent to be taught it. This is as far from Jesus as you can get. Jesus spoke in parables because he wanted to be clear to folk. His prayer was a simple one which had in it all a person could need. His message was also simple – repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. In everyone’s life that’s the case. I could drop dead this afternoon, so could you. We never quite got round to the repenting because there was always tomorrow – Jesus is reminding us that one day there won’t be. It is urgent we repent and come to Him. That is why his language is straightforward, as is that of Paul and the others. Now it is true that the passage of time and the necessities of translation mean that we need some help with understanding what is being said – but that’s all.
Complex vocabulary has its place, but is, too often, the instrument of a small elite entrenching itself with the power which the understanding of that language gives it. This was one of the arguments of the Reformers against using Latin. Latin was not the original language of the Scriptures, it may be doubted that Jesus or his Apostles understood it very well, if at all. Yet, for centuries, it was the language of the Bible in the West. That served the purposes of a clerical elite very well, but there’s no evidence it served the purpose of communicating the Gospel to the people. When I was a lad, I never met a Catholic who had even read the Bible. They listened to the passages said at Mass, but I never came across a Bible study class at a Catholic Church, or a Catholic who could refer, with ease, to the Scriptures. I blame no one for that – save their clerical class. If a powerful group of men hold the great secret in language you don’t understand, that puts you at their mercy. However much you mouth that you are the servant of the servant of the poor, you aren’t – you really aren’t.
The great strength of English Protestantism has been that it brings the words of God to all who will hear them, and it takes those words very seriously. Recently here we had some discussion of the length of a sermon, with some of my Catholic friends here saying that no one could be expected to concentrate for 45 minutes. Tosh, was, and is, my response. If you cannot concentrate on the word of God for 45 minutes, then I am not sure what sort of relationship you think you have with God. If the ploughboy and the serving maids in the early part of this century could do so, I am not sure why some think modern man is so lacking – 45 minutes on the computer game would be thought a tiny amount of time.
In the end, if comes back to taking personal responsibility. Yes, you are saved by the blood of Christ. If you want some other intermediary, if you want some hieratic mystery, fine, reach out for it – even if you can’t be bothered to listen to a 45 minute sermon – but it is really much easier – and also harder, than that. Jesus has saved you. He is the one mediator with God. His the one sacrifice which you ever need. His the only Graces you need. But that calls forth from you a personal responsibility. The priest, the bishop, Mary herself can, none of them, not one of them, call forth from your heart the love which will make you want to transform your life. The Holy Spirit does that – and like Peter, you will follow where he leads – even if it isn’t where you want to go. You don’t need anyone save the Holy Spirit – and if you have him, you know it.