Category Archives: Easter

5 April, Palm Sunday

Today we’d put out the flags, as Caernarfon did to welcome us (and thousands more tourists) a few years ago. 2,000 years ago it was palms and cloaks that were actively waved – not just left out in all weathers – as Jesus came to town. But by the following Friday nobody would have wanted the Romans to see the national flags and emblems on their buildings. Jesus had become dangerous to know.

The Plantagenet Kings whose castle commands this view would have looked askance at the scene, and their spies would have filled the castle governor’s ear with more or less factual accounts of the latest prince to arise to rally the Welsh. Pilate would have heard about Jesus before Palm Sunday but the parade of the King of the Jews did not lead to his immediate arrest. Pilate thought he could contain this uprising before it got very far.

By Friday festival fever was worrying a hypersensitive elite who valued the shaky Pax Romana as it applied in Judea, offering them status and privilege and allowing the Temple worship to continue according to the Law. Verses from the Psalms and the Prophets that challenged the idea of sacrifice were dismissed in their turn by the priests of the Temple.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Ps 51: 16-17

 

Jesus’s heart was broken, his body too, though not his spirit. His death completed his lifelong passion. It is all of a piece, as the Pieta tells us – the baby we saw Mary cuddling at Christmas is the One she cradles briefly before his burial. But today, knowing he is riding into difficult times, he is the King the crowd were waiting for.

Image from Missionaries of Africa
Strasbourg Cathedral

So let’s put out the flags in our hearts, and wave our palms for our King! And let’s hope we can distribute palms from the backs of our churches should we be banned from gathering to celebrate Holy Week and Easter.

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1 April: Ecce Homo

This figure of Christ, rising from the dead, taking his first, painful breath, is on the tomb of Saint Dominic in Bologna. The tomb was carved by many of the great and the good of Italian art of the time.

On the tomb there are many busy figures, but Jesus is rising all but unseen; a reminder that he was deserted by almost all his followers on Thursday night, and now here, on Sunday morning, he is alone. Perhaps he would rather take those first breaths alone? As a real man he must have been confused, as Mary Magdalene will be shortly when they meet in the garden.

By the time John and Peter get to the tomb, Jesus is long gone. It will take him an eternity to get used to being alive. He needs to touch his hands, to remove the thorns, and to keep on breathing: oh joy! A ghost does not have flesh and blood as I do.

But where are his friends? Confused, just a bit late, not quite up to speed. As we are. Were it not for the nail marks we would think he was standing on Pilate’s balcony. He is not dead though, nor marching unto his death. He is about to march away from death, and calls us to follow him, even through death’s dark veil.

Let us live this Holy Week in the light of Easter. Ecce Homo: Behold the Man: Christ is risen!

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March 23, Desert XXV: Open our hearts to hear God’s call

Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

If you look at the chest of the Infant Jesus you will see a hole where a decorative heart was fixed when the Jesuits were here. A baby loves his parents and family without words. We can have an loving and sincere dialogue with God without words also – unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

Pope Francis ends his Lent Message 2020, by insisting again on the Easter, or Paschal reason for Lent, and by asking Mary within the Communion of Saints to pray for us to open our hearts.

I ask Mary Most Holy to pray that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s call to be reconciled to himself, to fix our gaze on the paschal mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with him. In this way, we will become what Christ asks his disciples to be: the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Matthew 5:13-14).

FRANCIS

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21 March, Desert XXIV, Travelling with Pope Francis 5: giving makes us more human.

Pope Francis continues his thoughts on relationships as the vital centre of Christian and human life.

The dialogue that God wishes to establish with each of us through the paschal mystery of his Son has nothing to do with empty chatter, like that attributed to the ancient inhabitants of Athens, who “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Such chatter, determined by an empty and superficial curiosity, characterizes worldliness in every age; in our own day, it can also result in improper use of the media.

Putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence. They are likewise present in environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry.

Today too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world. Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness. We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life. As the Church’s magisterium has often repeated, political life represents an eminent form of charity (cf. Pius XI, Address to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, 18 December 1927). The same holds true for economic life, which can be approached in the same evangelical spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes.

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20 March, Desert XXIII: Travelling with Pope Francis 4; let yourself be saved over and over again.

Today we read from Pope Francis’ 2020 Lenten letter; the crucifix is by Constantina.

I would like to share with every Christian what I wrote to young people in the Exhortation Christus Vivit: “Keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, let yourself be saved over and over again. And when you go to confess your sins, believe firmly in his mercy which frees you of your guilt. Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love, and let yourself be cleansed by it. In this way, you can be reborn ever anew” (No. 123). Jesus’ Pasch is not a past event; rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit it is ever present, enabling us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.

The experience of mercy is only possible in a “face to face” relationship with the crucified and risen Lord “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20), in a heartfelt dialogue between friends. That is why prayer is so important in Lent. Even more than a duty, prayer is an expression of our need to respond to God’s love which always precedes and sustains us. Christians pray in the knowledge that, although unworthy, we are still loved. Prayer can take any number of different forms, but what truly matters in God’s eyes is that it penetrates deep within us and chips away at our hardness of heart, in order to convert us ever more fully to God and to his will.

In this favourable season, then, may we allow ourselves to be led like Israel into the desert (cf. Hosea 2:14), so that we can at last hear our Spouse’s voice and allow it to resound ever more deeply within us. The more fully we are engaged with his word, the more we will experience the mercy he freely gives us. May we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him.

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7 December: Passion flower III, close to home.

passion.flower.st.dunstan

We reflected on the passion flower story back in June and in November last year, after we’d spotted gravestones in Chartham with carvings of them, and again on the capital of a column at a doorway in St Thomas’ church, Canterbury. This one, well, let’s say it’s very close to home, but I only found it thanks to Chartham.

A few weeks ago the L’Arche  Kent community, with friends and relations on weekend vacations, did a 3 mile sponsored walk – we sponsored ourselves – from Chartham to Canterbury, in particular from Saint Mary’s church, Chartham to Saint Dunstan’s church in Canterbury. My companion and I had time for a coffee on arrival before joining the others, so I had my eyes open walking through the graveyard. And:

Here’s a passion flower, flanked by a daffodil and a rose, with blooms above that I’ve not yet identified. The rose for Saint George and England, the daffodil for Saint David and Wales, and the passion flower? This is how we concluded last year’s post:

When you see a passionflower let it remind you that Jesus is real, his death was real, as indeed will ours be – but so, too, will our rising. And when you see a passionflower on a gravestone, send us a picture to put in the blog!

The rest of that post, describing the story told  by the passion flower, can be found here.

Thank you for following Agnellus Mirror or just looking in and reflecting with us.

Will Turnstone and Co.

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6 November: In the midst of life we are in death.

chartham.passion.flower.3

The title of this post comes from the Book of Common Prayer, and like so much of that manual for English worship, goes back to the early days of the Church.

It was coming up to Christmas and I had a few items of shopping to bring home, including a stalk of Brussels sprouts. We’ll come to that after we’ve visited the local metro shop. I was behind ‘A’ in the queue, whom I’d known since teaching him twenty years ago. As ever, I asked ‘How’s Mother?’ knowing she was ill. ‘She passed away last month; I was going to come and tell you. I haven’t cried yet.’ But the tears were there, I saw them.

In front of him was ‘S’, a widowed neighbour; ‘You know you have two Daily Mails’, said the checkout man. ‘Yes, that’s right’, she answered. I knew that one was for her friend, whose son had recently been killed by a rogue driver, high on drugs.

In front of her was ‘F’, widowed herself this year, but bravely going about her business as a mother and grandmother. We always talk of her family and husband: ‘he was so easy to live with’, she remembered today, and like ‘A’s, her eyes were brimming.

I saw her friend ‘C’s son to wave to, neither of us realising that his mother was to suffer a massive and fatal heart attack an hour or two later.

Then round the corner to the farmers’ market for those sprouts. ‘L’ was there, asking after my family, whom he had taught History. Our conversation was ‘H’, my daughter’s dear friend, who ‘always lit up the classroom’ but she had left us eighteen months before in her mid twenties, with an aggressive cancer.

Time for the Church  to speak to the bereaved, whoever they may be: Dying, and, behold, we live; (2 Corinthians 6:9.)

The Passion flower on this grave marker is a promise of resurrection see here.

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13 September. Before the Cross XXIV: The Image Of Death

 

rosary.rjb

Reading this poem by Saint Robert Southwell, I at once remembered my father’s rosary, with the skull below Christ’s feet. So although Southwell does not directly refer to the crucifixion, this is the image that comes to my mind. How Dad’s fingers have eroded the figure of Christ and the skull! May he pray for us still, as he prayed for his children every day. Reginald Billingsley would have been 100 years old last New Year’s Eve. A ‘hearse’ at Southwell’s time was a frame that held candles over a coffin. Robert Southwell was a Jesuit  missionary to his native England, and a martyr at Tyburn, London in 1595.

Upon The Image Of Death

Before my face the picture hangs
That daily should put me in mind
Of those cold names and bitter pangs
That shortly I am like to find;
But yet, alas, full little I
Do think hereon that I must die.

I often look upon a face
Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin;
I often view the hollow place
Where eyes and nose had sometimes been;
I see the bones across that lie,
Yet little think that I must die.

I read the label underneath,
That telleth me whereto I must;
I see the sentence eke that saith
Remember, man, that thou art dust!
But yet, alas, but seldom I
Do think indeed that I must die.

Continually at my bed’s head
A hearse doth hang, which doth me tell
That I ere morning may be dead,
Though now I feel myself full well ;
But yet, alas, for all this, I
Have little mind that I must die.

The gown which I do use to wear,
The knife wherewith I cut my meat,
And eke that old and ancient chair
Which is my only usual seat,-
All these do tell me I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

My ancestors are turned to clay,
And many of my mates are gone;
My youngers daily drop away,
And can I think to ‘scape alone?
No, no, I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Not Solomon for all his wit,
Nor Samson, though he were so strong,
No king nor person ever yet
Could ‘scape but death laid him along;
Wherefore I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Though all the East did quake to hear
Of Alexander’s dreadful name,
And all the West did likewise fear
To hear of Julius Caesar’s fame,
Yet both by death in dust now lie;
Who then can ‘scape but he must die?

If none can ‘scape death’s dreadful dart,
If rich and poor his beck obey,
If strong, if wise, if all do smart,
Then I to ‘scape shall have no way.
Oh, grant me grace, O God, that I
My life may mend, sith I must die.

Saint Robert Southwell

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September 2: In Praise of Rain, I.

atkinson grims boar lane.png

I felt we could benefit from some rain this month. And before anyone gives in to feeling fed up at the very thought of it, here comes a set of reflections in praise of rain by GK Chesterton. And today’s appropriate picture is of Boar Lane in Leeds, by the Leodensian native, Atkinson Grimshaw. Over to GKC.

Sometimes walking upon bare and lustrous pavements, wet under numerous lamps, a man seems a black blot on all that golden looking-glass, and could fancy he was flying in a yellow sky.

But wherever trees and towns hang head downwards in a pigmy puddle, the sense of Celestial topsy-turvydom is the same. This bright, wet, dazzling confusion of shape and shadow, of reality and reflection, will appeal strongly to any one with the transcendental instinct about this dreamy and dual life of ours. It will always give a man the strange sense of looking down at the skies.

I hope the transcendental instinct is alive and well in our readers, leave the umbrella at home!

Last year Sister Johanna insisted we publish this poem by Sheila Billingsley on Easter Sunday. Did it rain that morning? Now I insist you go and read it!

We like a drop of rain at Agnellus Mirror.

From ‘A Miscellany of Men’, available on line and on Kindle.

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22 July: A Morning meeting, Feast of Mary Magdalene

easter.morning.frara.venice

This picture reminds me of the Song of Songs Chapter 2:

Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me:

Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come: the voice of the turtle is heard in our land: The fig tree hath put forth her green figs: the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come: My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.

A contrast to the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:

there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him.

Mary Magdalene was there on Good Friday, she knew how true that verse was. Now on Sunday she is in the garden, and through the lattice, with the spring leaves growing over it, she sees – the Gardener?

Eyes blurred with tears, heart in utter confusion, that is her first thought.

Jesus himself is not yet used to this body renewed, is not ready to meet her. Presumably he throws his cloak over himself before walking round to meet her. ‘Noli me tangere’, do not touch me, is completely understandable from a human point of view at this moment. But we know he later invited the disciples to touch him.

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