THE precise connection
between an actor sweating under a strenuous weighttraining programme in a London gymnasium. and the yearnings of people for a meaning in life, is not immediately apparent.
Actor Robert Stephens. aged 39. has been putting on muscle around the arms, neck and shoulders to prepare for a crucifixion scene in a film of John Osborne's adaptation of "A Bond Honoured" by the Spanish playwright, Lope de Vega.
The play concerns the life of Leonid°, the complete antihero who breaks as many moral rules as he can, raping his own sister, blinding his own father and apostatising to Islam. He meets Christ in the form of a shepherd, and admits that his own life was utterly wrong and pointless. Before accepting forgiveness Leonid° deliberately courts execution as his atonement. He is crucified on a tree.
In spite of the lurid subject matter, "A Bond Honoured" is a morality play that poses the question of the purpose of life, and it was the Christian framework that attracted the attention of agnostic John Osborne. Robert Stephens is convinced that many people are concerned to find a philosophy they can live by and that this questioning is growing among the younger generation.
"I think the film could have an enormous appeal." he said. He thinks the film, with its underlying questioning of the purpose of existence, might well find a large market in America where there is such a large number of educational institutions.
Many people such as John Osborne who have no religion, are deeply concerned with finding a meaning to life. Comparatively non-committal about his own standpoint, Robert Stephens describes himself as "bewildered" rather than a sceptic, and though not a regular churchgoer, accepts Christian ethics.
New attitude on Jews
COMMENTING on the five years that have elapsed since the historic decree of the Second Vatican Council exonerating the Jewish people from the smear of deicide, the influential Jewish Chronicle said last week that much had been done by the Church during this time to correct two widespread and deep-rooted views."
These were that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ and that they had therefore forfeited their position as God's Chosen People.
Mentioning regular courses about Judaism in Catholic colleges, and dialogue through such bodies as the Council of Christians and Jews, the editorial says that not all of the Catholic priesthood has accepted reconciliation with Judaism.
Anti-semitism, it says, is still encouraged by the Church in some Catholic countries. And it regrets that the Vatican has failed to recognise the State of Israel.
Language used by Christ
MANY of us having duly noted and forgotten Professor John Allegro's unoriginal theory that Christ did not exist, it is interesting to hear the views of Professor J. Jerevitas, of the University of Gottingen, West Germany, on the uniqueness of Christ's speeches as recorded in the Gospels.
In simplicity, nearness to life and mastery of short description. said Professor Jeremias at a recent public lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, Christ's way of speaking was unique. This was as true of the form of the parables as much as the content. The professor was talking on "Language and Authority in the Teaching of Jesus."
Also unparalleled in contemporary records is Christ's use of "Amen." In the Gospels this word was used in a way unique to either the time or the rest of the New Testament as an introduction to enforce Our Lord's meaning rather than as a traditional response.
The third original aspect was the use of the word "Abbe" applied to God, corresponding to our "Dadda" or "Daddy," and was originally a babbling song for little children. In effect Christ spoke to God as a child to his father. simply, intimately and securely.
THOSE two most vociferous Labour protagonists of the Abortion Act, Renee Short, M.P. for North East Wolverhampton, and Andrew Faulds, M.P. for Smethwick, will be among members of a Parliamentary delegation to India headed by their adversary in many a debate—Norman St. John-Stevas.
The party, organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, leaves on Monday and will spend a fortnight touring the sub-continent with visits to Delhi. Madras and Bombay.
Although the Commons debates on the Act became particularly heated at times, it is of course well known that at Westminster political opponents leave their animosity in the Chamber. Never one to stick to the beaten track. Mr. St. JohnStevas will find time to stop off in The Lebanon and Persia —the latter visit because, he says, he would like a Persian carpet.
He has a particular interest in India on two counts: the unique religious interest and its being an underdeveloped country. Mr. Faulds, too, has often expressed an interest in the Third World. An ex-actor, he is noted at Westminster for his ability to project his voice to every corner of the House and beyond.
"GODis a man. He have big white house, he have plenty children. God always travel by jet plane. God is a spirit, and he is greater than all mankind. God is the light of the world and he powerful man. He is mindy cows, horses. sheep, pigs, fowl, donkey and he is big rancher."
This is an extract from an essay by a Guyanan in the Jesuit-run St. Paul's Seminary, Georgetown, where they are trying to train boys of so far limited education to become priests.
A priest once said there are a thousand reasons for not taking a boy into a major seminary and only half a reason for accepting him. The Jesuits try to work on that half. It is all they have with which to build up a native clergy.
FR. David O'Callaghan, parish priest of St. Joseph the Workman, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, was recently presented by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham with his Blood Transfusion Gold Badge to mark the donation of the 50th pint of his blood.
This is not the first "Thank you" that Fr. O'Callaghan has received. During his 18 years in China before being expelled by die Communists in 1948 he was presented with a white silken banner by grateful Chinese Buddhists whom he had helped to feed during the Japanese invasion.
For his part in dissuading the Japanese from exacting reprisals against innocent villagers, he was given a "Wan Min San" , ("10,000 Peoples Umbrella"), one of the highest of Chinese honours.
He received a second such honour when he persuaded the Japanese to allow transplanting of rice shoots in one country area, thereby averting starvation.