St James Ministry Team

A blog from the Ministry Team of St James Church, Colwall, Herefordshire, UK


The enduring melody

The January issue of The Clock (our parish magazine) often tends to be short of copy, so when Caroline rang me a day after the deadline to say that we didn't have a Dear Friends (the introductory letter) I decided that one had to be produced pronto. My mind was full of Michael Mayne's book The enduring melody at the time, so the article was all about not defining people by the illness they are suffering - we may be ill, but we are still part of the human race. It was against the "Does he take sugar?" syndrome.

Having composed the letter and sent it off, I started having second thoughts. For a start, it is not a particularly cheerful theme for the new year issue, but I also thought I was going too far into the separation of soul and body. In fact illness can dominate your life: a serious illness becomes part of you whether we like it or not. And in fighting illness, our spiritual nature has a great influence in the healing process. The body is not a machine and our spiritual life cannot be separated from our bodies. This of course raises all sorts of problems, like what happens to us when we die: there is a lot more on this in my web site, but I think that in practice many of the problems can be resolved by thinking about how and in what situations we are using words like the soul.

When we are talking about goals and purposes for life, we don't pay too much attention to the body - unless your goal is to be an Olympic athlete and that alone. But if you are talking to someone who is ill, you want them to use their spiritual resources to make them better. And if you are talking to someone looking after a sufferer from Alzheimer's then you have to recognise that the soul is ebbing away and that ultimately looking after them is like putting flowers on a grave - a mark of respect for a life that is no more. Sometimes we think of the soul as being separate from the body (that is, we are only thinking about the spiritual aspects of life) and sometimes we need to recognise that the soul is simply one aspect of the body.


At 13 January 2008 at 09:26, Anonymous ken said...

I was intrigued by the idea of the soul of the person with Alzheimer's ebbing away. Where is it goin to? Is it like going bit by bit to the recycle bin awating eventual divine restoration?
It's said that the soul is the real self. But consider the disruptive, disobedient child; the bored, rebelious teenager; the ruthless, self-promoting adult; the failed and therefore guilt-ridden middled aged person; the old person wretched with with phyical and mental decline. That is what these people really are; so have we to say that as such they are not really being themselves and that these are just temporary charachteristics? Are we only our real selves when we are happy, fulfilled, sinless, or at least forgiven?
Perhaps the real self, if that's what the soul is, isn't what we are but what we could be with God: may be even what we shall be. Could we say that my soul is the optimum me?
It's all puzzling, but in the meantime we can say, as in the hymn, "Just as I am..."


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