Christ washing the feet of the disciples – by Nicolo Gerini. A copy of this painting hangs in Withyham parish church
This course of instruction was originally devised for adult confirmation candidates in the parish of St Michael and All Angels, Withyham. in the Diocese of Chichester. For copies of this small illustrated booklet (32 pages) contact email@example.com
- God the Father 2
- God the Son 5
- God the Holy Spirit 9
- Jesus: Teacher, Healer, Saviour 11
- The Bible 16
- The Sacraments 20
- Prayer 25
- The Four Last Things 31
1 GOD THE FATHER
The word God is not a name, like John or Jesus. It is a convenient term denoting the indefinable Being who is beyond, beside and within all life.
In the Old Testament of the Bible the words most often used to denote God are translations of Hebrew words meaning Almighty or Lord or He who is. The word Yahweh (from which we get Jehovah) was considered too sacred to utter; it was signified in the Hebrew text by four consonants YHWH for which the word Adonai (Lord) was substituted in speech. In most translations of the Old Testament the use of capitals (LORD) in the English text indicates YHWH in the original.
Yahweh in Hebrew means ‘He who is.’ In the story of the Burning Bush (Exodus 3: 1-15) Moses asks God, ‘What is your name?’ God answers,‘I am who I am.’ Pure, indefinable being, beyond human comprehension. To give God a name would be to define and to limit the indefinable and the illimitable. Moses was asking an unanswerable question.
In the New Testament the terms used to denote ‘God’ are translations from the Greek words meaning Lord, Father, God.
Moses encountered the Divine. His experience is common to the human race. Everyone senses occasions of wonder, joy, beauty, contentment, achievement – experiences which point beyond themselves to an awareness of a level of being which is greater than the transitory material of existence.
Poets are usually better at expressing this than theologians or philosophers:
William Blake (1757-1827) wrote:
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) wrote:
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
D H Lawrence (1885-1930) wrote:
All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.
Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.
Sleeping on the hearth of the living world
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
as of the master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.
When these poets consider the beauty of the world, they are moved by different emotions. Blake’s response is wonder. Hopkins responds by giving praise. Lawrence feels a deep sense of contentment like a cat asleep on the chair. In each case the poet is moved, changed, drawn into a relationship with something greater than himself. It is more than emotion. It is spiritual encounter.
Now try this
Spend a few minutes thinking, for example, about a beautiful scene or a loving relationship; a task completed, a friendship restored, a gift received, or music remembered. Open yourself to those thoughts and feelings. Savour them. Try to enjoy them without verbalising. Just a few moments, no more. What you are doing is common to all human beings. It is the act of reflection, a response to a source of wonder outside yourself; it might be of wonder or gratitude or regret. It is the beginning of prayer.
Exodus 3: 1-15 Moses and the Burning Bush 1 Kings 19: 11-13 Elijah finds God in silence