An Open Secret

Church Newsletter article for 18th September 2011

I’ve just finished reading the best selling novel ‘Labyrinth’ by Kate Mosse. This is a gripping thriller set simultaneously in mediaeval and modern Carcassone, France. In it, the main character Alice discovers hints and echoes of an ancient story, a story of inquisition, heresy and sacrifice and finds herself drawn into it with dramatic consequences. The way she sees the world will never be the same again. I must confess that I loved it – I was drawn into it, fascinated by the culture and story it explored.

I’m not giving away anything by saying that it the mystery at the heart of the book involves the Grail – this is revealed in the strap line on the cover. Since the mediaeval days this book looks back to, the story of the Grail has fascinated people. What happened to the cup that Jesus used in the Last Supper? Did it survive? If so, where is it now? Does it have ‘magical powers’? Alongside those stories that place the Grail within Christian tradition, there are those tales that take it outside orthodox understandings of Christianity, suggesting that it reveals a different truth about Jesus and has to be hidden to keep that secret safe from the Church who wants to suppress it.

There’s something about human nature that attracts us to the idea of hidden knowledge, of illumination for those who unravel concealed secrets or move into inner circles of knowledge. This has always been the way – the downfall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 is because they were tempted by the forbidden fruit, that of the knowledge of good and evil. There are scholars who believe that many of the New Testament books are written in response to Gnosticism, a movement contemporary to the Early Church that believed in salvation achieved through obtaining special knowledge. Our tendency to gossip is perhaps an expression of this; ‘did you know…’ expressing the power of the one gossiping who has special knowledge the other isn’t yet privy to. Such approaches to faith are attractive to those who hold them because they mean those who belong are part of an exclusive club; they are special because they are in, and everyone else is less important because they are not.

What is surprising about the Christian faith is that it doesn’t work like this. It is not an exclusive club, it is inclusive (and maybe, ironically, this is why some struggle with it, see 1 Corinthians 1:18+). There is no special knowledge to be discovered, no secret ritual to perform, no lifestyle to be obtained. To become God’s children we need simply trust in Jesus and his life, death and resurrection. It is through him that we become special, and he is not hidden but there for all to see and respond to. Let us strive in our lives to be open to all as he is, and to not deny others by our attitudes or lifestyles.

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