Faith at Work LXXIV

September 2010

This month, some of us go back to school to learn more about the world we live in. I’ve been exploring the significance of numbers and what they mean over the last few months, so I thought I’d continue with five this time. We’ll all be familiar with celebrating with high fives, no doubt, when we raise an open hand and clap it together with someone else’s. It’s often used in sport when a daring or spectacular move has come off and partners want to share their delight. I’m sure it would be appropriate too when a difficulty at work has been overcome and the workers are delighted that they have persevered and found a solution. It’s a sign that teamwork is alive and well.

There are a lot of fives that occur in our various religious traditions. The Khamsa in Arabic culture is shaped like a hand and has an eye on the palm to ward off envy and evil; it is also used to symbolise the five members of Mohammad’s family; there are the five pillars of Islam. The Torah in the Jewish scriptures consists of the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and contains the Law that underpins their way of life – the book of Psalms is likewise split into five books and the New Testament also starts with five books, the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The five sacred symbols of the Sikh tradition consist of the five K’s, the unshorn hair, the comb, the bracelet, the shorts and the sword.

We live in a world that consists of five continents and the five Olympic interlocking rings recognises that the competing athletes come from all over the world. There seems to be no end to the importance of the number five. Here’s an interesting one though – what is quintessential? It’s obviously related to five; that’s the “quint” and essence is something basic that cannot be further subdivided. We often use the word quintessential to mean the unique component that gives something its true character.

People have been trying to work out what fundamental elements the world consists of since the beginning of time. Long ago, they came up with the notion of earth, air, fire and water, but they felt there was one more needed to complete the set and get up to the magical five. The Greeks called it “aether” and associated it with the atmosphere that the gods breathed, not air like humans. Can we share in this aether? Of course we can; John Bell puts it like this in “Enemy of Apathy” – here’s just a flavour:

She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters …
She wings over earth, resting where she wishes …
She dances in fire, startling her spectators …
For she is the Spirit, one with God in essence,
Gifted by the Saviour in eternal Love,
She is the key opening the scriptures,
Enemy of Apathy and heavenly dove.
AMEN to that



This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
and subsequent experience during ministry in the parish of Codsall and the BCUIM.
This page was last updated on 2010-08-03


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