I am nearly finished typing up The Life of Raymond Raynes, copying with minor changes the original work by Nicholas Mosley (thank you, Lord Ravensdale, for your blessings on this project). Those fortunate enough to have read Father Raynes retreat addresses, given in Denver in 1957, The Faith, will have a sense of what dipping into his biography would be like. Much of the three hundred pages comprises direct quotes from letters and speeches, so the text is largely Father Raynes’s words.
I am so honored to type these words. It is as though as I type the words enter my heart and mind in sacramental fashion. So I have spent a lot of time of late with Father Raynes, with him in South Africa, with him when he was Superior of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, England, with him as he chatted about the faith in some of the great homes in rural England. (“House parties,” one retreatant called them, “all gin and confession…. they were wonderful…”)_
Our small publishing group hopes to produce more of these out-of-print books that tell of our Anglican way of Christianity. The more I live and experience Anglo-Catholicism, the more I am fulfilled by its rituals, sacraments, theology, and the more I appreciate our place in history and the telling of the Gospel.
Which brings me to interpretations, and ways of expressing the Incarnation and what it means. It brings me to the Gospel – what is it, what does it mean for me, for my family, for my community, my nation, the world. There are numerous answers to these questions, numerous interpretations.
Just as there are many interpretations of sacred texts. There are, our preacher reminded us today and I had to smile at its appropriateness for me at this time, interpretations of interpretations.
And this all leads to the question of truth. Can we know it, does it exist, are we merely beings of impulses and instincts. Is science so very incompatible with religion. I think not. They support one another.
My fifth novel, I hope and believe, will be released in May. The Magdalene Mystery asks these questions of interpretation, of truth. Can we know Mary Magdalene? Can we know who she really was? This question leads to the next, can we know what happened in that first century of the Early Church? Which of course leads us to Holy Scriptures and the challenge posed by many doubters in the last fifty years, can we know that a man named Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead? Indeed, can we even know that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived and walked the earth?
I suppose much of this quest for truth is personal for me, since my father left his Christian faith and his pastorate in the sixties’ upheaval of doubt. He believed what he read, what so-called New Testament scholars were writing. The Jesus Seminar soon “validated” his new creed of unbelief. American culture, drunk with freedom from moral restraints, and celebrating the birth control pill, launched into a party that is still going on (the devastation caused by the sexual revolution is a topic for another day). My parents read themselves out and away from their living faith and into something sterile and self-serving.
So today I type quickly, my fingers tapping the keys. Father Raynes’s telling of the truth will be one more expression that will feed a culture starving for the real thing. Of course each of us must read, evaluate, and judge. That’s what free will is all about. But this biography that seems to be emerging through my fingertips, like The Faith, encourages each of us to decide on our own and not be swayed by media and false testimony. Father Raynes’s words point to true authorities, not bestselling journalists and sensational novelists and fads. His words inspire us to embrace the traditional morality of the Gospel, to see that right and wrong do exist, that selfishness is not an admirable trait. His words encourage us to have backbone, to stand up and be counted in our world today. His words encourage us to meet God and enjoy him forever.
And my little novel, soon to be in print, hopefully will do the same thing in a different way, with a love story set in Rome and Provence, and a mysterious quest with clues in breathtaking basilicas. A predator stalks, and folks spread lies like spiders spinning webs.
So I must get back to my typing and back to the joy of telling, retelling, and telling once again, making all these words come alive on the page.