Thursday, 13 August 2015
Jeremy Taylor and forgiveness
in ‘Holy Living’ and ‘Holy Dying’
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
Thursday, 13 August 2015,
12.45 p.m., Mid-Day Eucharist
Readings: Joshua 3: 7-11, 13-17; Psalm 114; Matthew 18: 21 – 19: 1.
May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today, in the calendar of the Church, we remember the saintly Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), one of the key bishops in the restoration of the Church of Ireland after the ravages and spoliations of the mid-17th century.
Jeremy Taylor was born in 1613 in Cambridge, where he was educated at Gonville and Caius College. He was ordained in 1633 and, as the Civil War got under way, he became a chaplain with the Royalist forces. He was captured and imprisoned briefly, but after his release went to Wales, where the Earl of Carbery gave him refuge.
During the Civil War, Jeremy Taylor suffered internal exile and persecution, but remained true to the essentials of his Anglicanism, worshipping daily according to the tradition of the Book of Common Prayer.
In this exile, he wrote The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living (1650) and The Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying the following year (1651).
In 1658, Jeremy Taylor moved to Ireland, and with the end of the Cromwellian era, he and Archbishop John Bramhall of Armagh moved immediately to restore the Anglican tradition within the Church of Ireland. They revised and updated the Book of Common Prayer, they restored catholic order to the worship, liturgy and the organisation of the Church of Ireland, they provided priests for parishes that had long been vacant, and they ensured the consecration of bishops for vacant dioceses.
He became the bishop for three of those dioceses – Down, Conor and Dromore – he restored and rebuilt cathedrals, visited his parishes, and provided sacramental and pastoral care for the people.
Yet he never neglected the deeper spiritual truths. His two best known works, Holy Living (1650) and Holy Dying (1651), are precisely that – models for how to live and how to die in faith in Christ.
Learning to live with our lives as they are, and learning to die when death comes are important themes throughout his writings.
Thinking on today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 18: 21 – 19: 1), and its emphases on forgiveness, I am reminded that Jeremy Taylor also writes, throughout his works, about the constant need for forgiveness – giving and receiving forgiveness – as essential parts of the health of a Christian, spiritual health and physical health.
He reminds us in Holy Dying that we receive absolution of our sins in proportion to our forgiving of one another.
He reminds us that when we are distressed, in sickness, find ourselves without hoped-for and prayed-for healing, sorrowful and feeling the weight of sickness, as he describes it, we should call to mind what injuries we have been forgiven.
He wrote: “He who knows not to forgive, knows not to be like a Christian, and a disciple of so gentle a master.”
Jeremy Taylor’s health was worn down by the protracted conflicts of his day, and he died on this day, 13 August 1667.
And so may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Holy and loving God, you dwell in the human heart
and make us partakers of the divine nature
in Christ our great high priest:
help us who remember your servant Jeremy Taylor
to put our trust in your heavenly promises
and follow a holy life in virtue and true godliness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Post Communion Prayer:
God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with Jeremy Taylor to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This reflection was shared at the Mid-Day Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, accompanied by prayer and laying-on of hands in association with the Church's Minister of Healing, on Thursday 13 August, 2015