The Great Exemplar
August is a month of fulfilment: Mary assumed into heaven, Our Lady in Harvest, the promise of ultimate glory for us all in the Communion of Saints. Only then will the Church be fully what she is called to be, Christ’s holy and spotless Bride.
Yet August can also leave us tired and jaded: a summer that didn’t quite make it, a holiday that didn’t work. We feel spiritually dead.
The ASB Calendar invites us on August 13th to reflect on the life and teaching of Bishop Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) one of the foremost ‘Fathers’ in our Anglican tradition. He tells us much about holy living and holy dying and points us to Jesus as our Great Exemplar. Where else is there to look but to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith ? (Hebrews 12 : 2). Since he invites us to learn of him, to whom else could we go, seeing he has the message of eternal life? (Matt : 29; John 6 : 68).
However jaded, therefore, we might feel, through our own lukewarmness or our sinful failings, or however grieved, maybe, by the brokenness of the Church, Jeremy Taylor invites us back to the centre through the doors of repentance. Because the Church is firmly established on that Rock which is Christ (I Cor. 10 : 4) and has received the promised Spirit, we can, in our penitence, be assured of divine forgiveness by means of her priestly ministers:
Happy is he that dashes his sins against the rock, upon which the Church is built (Psalm 137 : 9 ) that the Church, gathering up the planks and fragments of the shipwreck, and the shivers of the broken heart may reunite them, pouring oil into the wounds made by the blows of sin, and restoring with meekness, gentleness, care, counsel and authority, persons overtaken in a fault. For that act of ministry is not ineffectual which God hath promised shall be ratified in heaven, and that authority is not contemptible, which the holy Jesus conveyed by breathing upon his Church the Holy Ghost (John 20 :22-3) … Christ intended we go up to heaven the way he hath appointed, that is by offices and ministries ecclesiastical. (The Great Exemplar)
Should we by chance be uncertain as to where exactly the Church is now to be found, Jeremy Taylor surely gives us some timely reminders. We, whether priests or people, are the church, our foundation is Christ, our empowerment the Spirit and our hope that, like Mary, we shall one day be with Jesus where he is in the eternal Kingdom.
We are called to holiness, to live and die in Christ, and to pray ardently for God’s grace to descend upon us that he might safeguard this portion of his Church in peace.
O blessed Jesus, who didst die for us: keep us for ever in holy living from sin and sinful shame in the communion of thy Church, and thy Church in safety and grace, in truth and peace, unto thy second coming …Amen. (Holy Living)
So even if, with Jeremiah, we might feel that ’ the harvest is past the summer is ended, and we are not saved’ (Jeremiah 8 : 20), we can take heart. Our Exemplar is also our Enabler, and where he our Head has gone before we hope to follow after.
By a Sister of the Community of the Holy Cross. Rempstone, Nr. Loughborough.