God, Christ and Us
Herbert McCabe OP
Published by Continuum
In his forward to this book of sermons, Rowan Williams describes God, Christ and Us as “an irresistibly direct, earthy, no-nonsense refresher course in Christian faith.” This is praise indeed for an author unknown to many on this side of the Atlantic. Herbert McCabe (1926-2001) was an English Dominican priest, philosopher and theologian and a member of the Order of Preachers.
McCabe was strongly influenced by the Bible and “the notion of God leading us to happiness through the work of grace, and especially, through the life and teachings of Jesus.” He was also much influenced by the writings and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. He developed a radical politics on behalf of the poor, something learned both from Marx and from Jesus.
Herbert McCabe was also a character. He was not afraid to speak even when others might be offended. As editor of the journal, The New Blackfriars (Oxford), he wrote that “the Church was indeed corrupt but that was no reason to leave it.” For that, he was fired, but when he was reinstated 3 years later, his first editorial began with “As I was saying before I was so oddly interrupted…”
I will draw attention to a few of his sermons, lifting out just an idea or two that struck me as a unique insight. In his sermons on Hope, he begins each segment with a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer and the first segment is on Prayer. Rather than God needing to know what our needs are, McCabe suggests that we should learn what our needs are. The best way to do this is not to ask for what we think is high minded and spiritual enough to bring to God; when we do this we will find ourselves distracted. The way to avoid distraction is to be honest and ask God for what we would really like, no matter how mundane or even vulgar. If we are honest and bring these things to God, the Holy Spirit will help us develop a deeper understanding of “who you are and what you really want.”
His sermon on the Eucharist is reason enough to read this book:
…in our eucharistic meal we are present to each other (and in the presence of Christ) as we will be in the kingdom. We enter for a moment into the world of the future, into that kind of society in which we will simply be the body of Christ, in which there will be no admixture of evil, no alienation.”
A good thought to bring to “the Table” next Sunday evening.