Adam Lay Y Bounden

The opening words of a traditional 15th century English carol celebrating the birthday. of Jesus Christ at Christmas!  In mediaeval theology. Adam was supposed to have 'lay y bounden' before the coming of Jesus for '4,000 winters,' a figure derived from the Book of Genesis where we read the story of Adam’s expulsion from Paradise, brought about by one fateful bite of an apple from the tree of knowledge!  If only Eve hadn't persuaded him to take a bite of the apple the cunning serpent had tricked her into picking! That apple was Adam and Eve's downfall, what we call original sin—and we have all been biting that same apple ever since!  However that wasn't the end of the story. because God wants us all back in that Garden of Eden, even Adam and Eve, just as He created us, that’s why he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to make this possible! Born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, a saviour ready even to die for us, and so the carol concludes Blessed be the time that apple was taken for which we must sing DEO GRATIAS'! No apple, no Jesus; no wonder Adam's sin is referred to as 'Blessed Fault'.

So why bore you with some old mediaeval carol? It's because it's opening words contain the universal truth, that we are all bounden', as much in the 21st century as ever Adam was, the apple is just a simple way of describing what we are like as human beings, most of us can't help ourselves and live with the consequences of our own sinfulness, making that wrong choice at the wrong moment instead of the other way round, causing ourselves and others pain and distress. Yet God is generous, we believe in a God of love and mercy, the latter a consequence of the former, no situation is completely irredeemable however bad it might look to us!

December 8th marks the beginning of a special 'Year of Mercy', a year set aside to remind not only the faithful, but all humankind, that we believe God's Mercy is very real and available to everyone Pope Francis recently reminded the Bishops of the Church that Jesus Christ is 'the face' of the Father's mercy; for him this is the mystery at the centre of the Christian Faith. The birth of Jesus, the Incarnation, is, says Francis, '. the supreme act by which God comes to meet us.... mercy the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness'. Francis urges the Church 'not to point the finger of judgment' at people but rather ' to seek out and care for those who are hurting, with the balm of acceptance and mercy', and to be like 'a field hospital, with doors wider open to whoever knocks in search of help and support ....,to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.'

Acknowledging the many challenges that the Church faces in proclaiming the Gospel in our modern world, Francis says we must begin from 'contemporary realities rather than 'abstract ideas of what the world should be!' He concludes that the true defenders of the Church's doctrine and teaching, 'are not those who uphold it to the letter, but its spirit., not ideas but people, not formulae but the gratuitousness of God's love and forgiveness.' On a personal level the Year of Mercy is.about how each of us behaves towards others; Jesus taught that we ', should be merciful as the Father is merciful', and yet how hard we find it to forgive, to let go of feelings of anger, violence, bitterness and resentment, those bad feelings that can overwhelm us and sometimes eat us up! Francis says we must let it all go if we want to live life joyfully and how true that is!

Looking ahead to the Year of Mercy, I really hope that the message of God's love and mercy will reach those who bear the wounds of sin, those whose burden is heavy, some past sin, their own or that of someone else, which may have dogged their life or even ruined it! Take the opportunity to unburden yourself, seek God's love and mercy, his forgiveness and the promise of a fresh start. Like Adam we are all 'bounden', yet Christmas reminds us that our story and his, can have a happy ending!

your friend and priest,

Father Keith