I’ve been reading a small volume called The Faith, by Raymond Raynes, C.R., possibly an Anglican saint. The book is a transcription by Baron Nicholas Mosley of retreat addresses Father Raynes gave at St. Michael and All Angels, Denver, Colorado in October of 1957. Father Raynes had been Superior of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, England, for fifteen years, and was to die a few months later.
A number of years ago I was introduced to Raymond Raynes’ remarkable life and work by my bishop, who knew Father Raynes and who encouraged me to read Nicholas Mosley’s biography of him. I was so stunned by Father Raynes’s description of what it means to be a sacramental Christian that I included some of his reflections in my third novel, Inheritance, about Christianity in England. I owe Father Raynes a great deal. I owe Baron Nicholas Mosley as well for having written down his words.
Unfortunately, these works are out of print.
So I was pleased when the American Church Union asked me to read an old tattered copy of The Faith with a view to its reprinting. As I read, once again I was enriched, entranced, and brought closer to God. Once again I caught the exuberance and joy of what it means to be a sacramental Christian. Hopefully we can obtain permission to reprint this work.
In the meantime, I’d like to share a few of Father Raynes’ words, particularly on this Sexagesima Sunday, in which the Gospel is the parable of the Seeds and the Sower. The seeds fell on rich soil when they fell into life of Father Raynes, and they are seeds we do not want to lose.
On believing in Christ:
People label themselves Christians and will talk about Christianity as if it were some kind of philosophy or some theory… yet the fundamental question which we must face is ‘What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?’ (9)
Indeed. Who is He?
We come to the second question – what shall I do with Jesus? – and there is no kind of half-way house about this. We have either to receive Him as He is or to reject Him…. You cannot separate a person from what he does and says and thinks and endures… (26)
So I ask myself, what does this mean for me?
On the sacraments:
The whole of God’s creation is sacramental because the creation is the outward and visible expression, in various forms, of the life and love of God… a flower is an outward and visible sign of the beauty of God… (69)
The sacrament of Baptism… has the outward and visible sign of water… water cleanses. So the effect of Baptism is to cleanse the person baptized, the whole of the person, from their fallen nature… we are made a member of Christ, the child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. That is a fact which cannot be undone… what our Lord is by nature – the Son of God – we are by adoption through Baptism – the sons of God. (72)
The other Sacrament of the Gospel is the Lord’s Supper… The outward and visible sign is that which our Lord gave us, bread and wine, which are taken, offered, blessed, broken and received. The sign effects what it signifies. So when I receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood, I receive our Lord Himself. (72)
The sign effects what it signifies. This is a phrase I want to learn, for in a sacrament, through the Church, God enters our world. The cleansing and adoption of Baptism. The receiving of Christ into my body and soul in the Eucharist.
On the Communion of Saints:
The one fellowship which doesn’t depend on any manmade rule, the eternal fellowship, is our fellowship with one another in Christ. Of course on earth it centres on the Altar. For when we come to the Altar not only are we renewing our one-ness with Christ, but we are strengthening and renewing our one-ness with one another. This fellowship is the eternal fellowship, the Christian society called in the Creed the Communion of Saints. (84)
The work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, as St. Paul tells us, is the building up of the body of Christ and the sanctification (the making holy) of the people of God that they may see God; because it is only the pure in heart who shall see God. (84-5)
I have long enjoyed my communion with fellow believers partaking in the Holy Eucharist. As Father Raynes goes on to say, this communion includes those who have come before and who will come in the future. And of course there are those who are so pure of heart, they are closest of all to God, those men and women we may consider capital-S Saints.
You cannot pray as a Christian except as a member of Christ’s body, the Church…it is the Holy Spirit that prays within us… we the Holy Spirit within the Church and it is the Holy Spirit that not only prompts us to prayer but informs our prayer. We pray within the Communion of Saints. So when a Christian prays, he never prays alone… Prayer has been called the breath of a Christian; and if I don’t breathe, I die. (95-6)
On taking up the cross:
Taking up the cross isn’t a kind of dreary acceptance of some kind of burden, under which we are going to be so good and patient and resigned… That’s all nonsense. For what is the cross of Christ and why were you marked with it in your baptism? It is not only the sign of our redemption, it is the source of it. And we are marked men; we are crossed men. And we have got to grip the cross and realize it and not think that it is just concerned with suffering and sorrow, because that’s not true… There is [also] power, light, strength, beauty, radiance from the cross of Christ… It’s terrific. And it redeems the whole of our life if we live under it… it is concerned with everything… your work, your pleasure. For it is through the cross of Christ that we can only truly enjoy ourselves. (104)
How true, and how unrealized by many, believers and unbelievers alike.
On Holy Scripture:
I don’t derive my religion from the Bible, I derive it from Christ. Christ was preached and I was baptized and became a member of Christ. Within the body of Christ I find certain treasures given to the Church by God. One is Holy Scripture, which is a lantern unto my feet; and the other is the Sacraments of the Church… Now the Holy Spirit which was given to me in Baptism and in Confirmation is the inspirer of Holy Scripture, and He is the interpreter of it. It is not a private interpretation. Through the Scripture under the inspiration and operation of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God speaks to me. (108)
Life for a Christian is meant to be… a love-song sung unto God… When the sun rises, it brings colour to things and they spring to life… so with our Holy Religion, it isn’t some kind of addition to life. Our Lord is the Light of the World, and as the children of light we begin to see all things in the light of Christ, including our own lives… [we] walk in the light. (113)
And so much more. Thank you, Father Raynes. Thank you, Nicholas Mosley.