Since the age of fourteen I have considered myself a Christian. For the two or so years before then I was a catechumen with an interest in ritual, liturgy, and the magic of this man Jesus of Nazareth. My incipient awareness of the incarnate God was, immaturely, modelled on the character of the man who taught me the Christian faith by his words and by the example of his life. In the years since his death this graven image has mutated through the shifting perspectives of my mind and devotion. Through the 1990s, like the rest of my generation, the nature of clericalism and ecclesial authority were brought, and not attractively so, into a sharper light. One way or another the faith of my youth was pressed to undergo the disentangling of this Nazarene from the layers of sacerdotal and pious tradition; until a figure now stands alone – as though through a mirror dimly. Not now knowing the man at our side I can only trust that I myself am known.
All the colourful baubles that we have been forced to cast away for the sake of gaining some closer look at this humanity behind the icon are now used as the stick for our backs. The sins of the fathers have come to visit the children down to the fourth and fifth; the shadowy figure is rejected on the failings of a life and practice which long since abandoned the ascent to truth through mystery.
Standing now among the Christians in a world tipped with hostile venom I am asked to express the meaning of what it is that we do and believe. What does it all mean? Was it for nothing that our truth weathered storms and conflagrations through twenty centuries to reach us? Lent for me this year will be a revisiting of this path of discovery or rediscovery. It simply is not good enough that we continue to be mere custodians of memory; half remembered traditions and ill-remembered stories. We – I – must be prepared to give an account of the hope we have within us. Why is it that I hold on to this figure and this faith in a world that is now content to ignore and mock it? Perhaps it is right to ignore and mock it. Perhaps it is meaningless, but I do not believe that it is. I believe that encounter is possible, and that our redemption is imminent.