Page 8, 29th January 1999

29th January 1999
Page 8
Page 8, 29th January 1999 — The crib is mightier than the dome
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Organisations: Catholic Church
Locations: Birmingham, ROME

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By Elspeth Campbell I

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The crib is mightier than the dome

We should all aim to enter the third Millenium different and better people, says Cardinal Hume: the time to begin preparing for Christmas this year is now NvE ARE NOW walk ing together into the next Millen nium. Once we are into the year 2000, the Millennium Candle will have been extinguished, the Resolution a distant echo, and there will be the danger that for many people life will carry on as usual. But it must not be so. It is important that we make the most of what will be a year of opportunity, when we can underline our commitment as Christians, individually and collectively, to the well-being of our planet and its people.

If we do not put Christ at the centre of the celebration of the Millennium then we risk making that celebration no more than a commercial extravaganza or a celebration of human achievement. That kind of celebration has its place, no doubt. But it is not enough. It is the birth of Christ that we shall be celebrating. The Crib will always be more important than the Dome. As Christians we must be proud of our faith and profess it. At the same time we want, of course, to walk with those of other faiths and religions, we respecting them, and they us. They will respect us the more if we are true to ourselves.

Let us start now to prepare for Christmas Day 1999. It is the day when the celebration of the Millenium should really begin. We must make this Christmas Day truly special. Do not let commercial consideration prevail. Do not permit others to empty Christmas of its religious significance. Do not allow claims that we are no longer a Christian nation to become an accepted orthodoxy. Do not listen to cynical non-believers who deride our Christian efforts. The time has come for us to proclaim and celebrate the riches of our different churches. The time has come to cease carping about our churches' limitations and faults. Of course we are not perfect. We have never claimed to be so. But we must now move forward with a renewed enthusiasm to preach the gospel and especially to those who have never heard it.

There has been much planning to prepare for the Millenium and its celebration, and this, of course, is right and proper. But I suggest that as we reflect together we should not concentrate so much on what type of world we want to create in the new Millennium, but rather on what kind of people we should become. We will not, and cannot, change the world unless and until we change ourselves.

IN ROME on Christmas Eve, the Pope will open the great bronze door to mark the opening of the Christian Millennium, the beginning of the Holy Year, a gesture which has taken place every 25 years since the year 1425. We might remember that there is a door at which the Pilgrim who comes to us from afar has been knocking, your door and mine. He wants to have access into our minds and, so importantly, to our hearts. We admit him or keep him out. It is our choice. But, surely our celebration of the year 2000 can only be measured in terms of that journey of conversion that each one of us is called to make, for the call to conversion is the indispensable condition of Christian love. The Lord's command, "Repent and believe the Gospel", should ring in our ears as we take every step on our pilgrimage into the Millennium and beyond. We should all aim to cross the threshold of the third minenium different — better people.

In his document preparing the Catholic Church for the Millennium, the Pope draws attention to the need to look beyond ourselves. Recalling that Jesus came to "preach the good news to the poor" (Mt 11:5) he says that "a commitment to justice and peace in a world like ours, marked by so many conflicts.and intolerable social and economic inequalities, is a necessary condition for the preparation and celebration of the Jubilee." (TM A 51) Last year we saw a wonderful example in the witness of over 60,000 people, not all of them Christians, gathered in Birmingham to call for the crippling burdens of international debt to be lifted from the shoulder of the poorest nations by the year 2000. Further action can and must be taken by the end of this year, but we should not forget the urgent need also to address the endemic corrup tion in many countries, the civil strife, and the profligate arms sales that do so much to exacerbate the plight of the poorest of the poor.

As Christians we are commanded by Christ to witness to the Gospel. In our society today there are many people searching. They are in search of happiness, of a peace that the world cannot bring. They seek authentic values, standards, and, importantly, reasons for living and hoping. Have we anything to say to them? Of course we have. It is incumbent on each of us as individuals and Christian communities to lay aside our divisions — lay aside, I say, not pretend they do not exist — in order to speak to the nation of the things of God and his Gospel to describe our pilgrimage of faith, and to show them that it leads to life hidden with Christ in God which is the fulfilment of every human aspiration.

Our responsibility, then, is to live lives which witness to the truth about God, who in Christ saved the world. At the dawn of a new millennium we are there to tell the world that the ultimate and universal source of all hope in the future is to be found in him, and him alone, Christ must be born again into out society in the year 2000. Yes, it must be so.




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