Text: Canon Alan Griffiths New Year homily at St Ann's, Soho

 Canon Griffiths gave the following homily today, the Solemnity of Mary, The Mother of God, at the Mass for gay people and their friends and families at St Ann's Soho. When people come up to communion, priests notice what they are wearing, particularly on their wrists. Sometimes it is both expensive and beautiful. Sometimes it is expensive and anything but beautiful. This last year there has been a great number of white wristbands saying "Make Poverty History." This campaign has clearly struck a chord. For Christian believers, however, it is of greater significance than merely a passing interest or (God forbid) a fashion accessory. For MPH is about our common humanity, and for Christians that is a theological fact. Because the other name for "common humanity" is "the Body of Christ." Today, we keep the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. That expression claims to be a translation of the Greek "Theotokos," the name by which Our Lady has been invoked since the fifth century. However, it is not quite an accurate translation. The accurate version would be "The God-Bearer" or "God's birthgiver." The focus of the name, and of today's feast, is not on motherhood in general but on the Incarnation of the Word. In Mary's body, the body of Christ forms. The Word assumes flesh from her, our common human flesh. So Mary gives human-self, ourself, to the eternal Word. Evermore, God is in the flesh of our common humanity. Therefore our common humanity may be understood as the Body of Christ. This year, we have had cause to reflect often on that humanity. The tsunami, earthquakes and terrorist attacks, especially here in London, have made us respond with humanity to the need of humanity. And that, for Christians, is not just sentiment, but an action of the Body of Christ. In taking our human body, the eternal Word makes it God's body. Humanity for Christians is not something that is bolted on to the truths about God. It is at the heart of the truth about God. There is no other way for God to be "God with us." For we are embodied beings, and all our interpersonal engagement is bodily, symbolising spirit. Body cannot be divorced from spirit. The bodily is the spiritual. So we are called upon to care about, and for, this human body of our common humanity, for it is the Body of Christ. In Christ, God defines God's self in words we use every time we celebrate the Eucharist: "This is my Body which will be given up for you/my Blood, shed for you and for all." We have to understand those words as not just "consecration" but revelation, showing what manner of God is in our midst. Christ gives his body, our body, in willing sacrifice to the Father for all of us and as loving gift to all of us. If that defines the Body of God in this universe, then it must define the whole of our common humanity as a universal mutual giving in love and compassion. The "Body of Christ" is what all humanity is called to become. But as yet it is incomplete. And here we encounter risks and dangers. The Church often invokes Saint Paul's wonderful metaphor of the Body of Christ to define itself. That is all right so long as we realise the incompleteness of the Body. If we don't, if we are tempted to think that the Church has "made it" then there are dangers. A church that thinks itself perfect will be anxious to set its borders: who is in, who is outside; who is "disordered" (as if we all were not "disordered"); who may aspire to what functions within it, who may and who may not access the means of grace, and so on. Above all, such a church may forget that humans, and therefore the Body of Christ have two ears but only one mouth. Such a church requires constant and persuasive reminders that the Body of Christ is not yet, that we are, all of us, broken and incomplete. We wait to be complete. Mary waits with us for the fullness of the birth of Christ's body, for the birthpangs of the new age. And as we wait, we define our waiting by celebrating the Eucharist. In the Eucharist the Body of Christ is complete for all time. The sacrifice is there in its fullness. This is God's work, accomplished in the power of the Spirit. For us it serves as a sign of hope that Christ will be complete. Yet it serves also as a challenge to do our work under God, in the power of the same Spirit, to hasten that completion. The body is complete. Yet our experience of the Eucharist is of brokenness. The Body is broke, too. Never forget that it is broken bread that we receive. Thank God we can experience that as reality in assemblies such as this. The bread is broken and its brokenness is what we receive. But that's the wonder. Saint Paul reminds his Corinthian listeners that the Lord's Supper is about wholeness through brokenness: "Though there are many of us, we are one body, because we all partake of the one bread." It is in the very brokenness of our common humanity that we must seek the seeds of its completion in unity and in our own brokenness that we must look for the hope of our becoming whole. That is the birth which we await and which Mary awaits with us.

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