Category Archives: Laudato si’

22 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day V.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Day 5 “Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising”

(Matthew 2:9)

Readings

Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come?

Matthew 2:7-10 Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising

Reflection

Again and again, the scriptures tell us how God walks with us. The path may not always be straight: sometimes we are led to retrace our steps, sometimes to return by a different route. But in all our journeying through life, we can be confident that God, who neither “sleeps nor slumbers”, is with us when we slip or fall.

Even in the greatest darkness, God’s light is with us. Most perfectly, in the fullness of time, God sends Jesus Christ, who is the guiding light for all nations, the glory of God in the world, the source of divine light and life.

The way ahead into unity with one another, into closer union with Christ, is not always clear. In our earnest attempts to build unity ourselves it is all too easy to lose sight of this fundamental message of the scriptures: that God does not abandon his people even in their failures and divisiveness. This is God’s message of hope for the whole world. As the story of the Magi reminds us, God guides people of all kinds, by the light of the star, to where Christ, the light of the world, is to be found.

Prayer

God our Guide,
you sent the star to lead the Magi to your only begotten Son.
Fill us with the confidence that you are walking with us.
Open our eyes to your Spirit, and encourage us in our faith,
so that we may confess that Jesus is Lord,
and worship him as the Magi did in Bethlehem.
Amen.

Hymn Verse

Hope of my heart, strength of my soul,
Guide Thou my footsteps and keep me whole;
My grace and fortress, Thou wilt be,
Oh, let Thy mighty hand ever lead me.
                                        Barney E Warren, 1893

Questions

Global: As a global community we continue to face many challenges. How do we seek God’s guidance in our response to those challenges?

Local: How is God guiding your Christian community at this time? Where are you being called to act?

Personal: Reflect on a time when you have felt or seen God’s guidance. What was that like?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Start (or continue) a conversation around your Christian community about how you are responding to the challenges of climate justice. As churches, take part in global prayer and action for climate justice (https://www.prayandact4climate.org).

Local: Plan a Climate Sunday service between the churches in your locality. Visit climatesunday.org for resources and inspiration.

Personal: Seek out a community to be part of to support you in your action responding to global challenges. For example if you like craft you could turn your skills into activism in community with the craftivist-collective.com.

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20 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day III.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

‘We Saw His Star in the East’.

King Herod was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him

Reflection
Christ’s coming disturbs the ways of the world. He comes in humility, denouncing the evil of injustice and
oppression that accompanies the ambition for power, wealth and status. Jesus calls for a change of heart and a transformation of life, which will bring liberation from all that dehumanises. This creates disturbance precisely because he rocks the boat of those who seek only their own interests and neglect the common good. But for those who work for peace and unity, Christ’s coming brings the light of hope.

We are invited to commit ourselves to act constructively to make justice a reality, acknowledging where we have strayed from God’s ways of justice and peace. Then the answer to our prayer for Christian unity becomes visible as others recognise in us Christ’s presence in the world. We can bring the light of hope to those living in the darkness of political unrest, social poverty, and structural discrimination. The Good News is that God is faithful, always strengthening and protecting us, inspiring us to work for the good of others, especially the victims of oppression, hatred, violencand pain.

Prayer
Lord, you led us out of darkness to hope in Jesus.
Unite us in our commitment to establish your reign of love, justice and peace,
bringing light to those living in the darkness of despair and disillusionment.
Shine your light upon us and surround us with the warmth of your love.
Lift us up to you, so that our lives may glorify you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Readings

Psalm 2:1-10 Why do the nations conspire…?
2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 But the Lord is faithful, he will strengthen you


Go and do
(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)
Global: Covid-19 turned the world upside down and provided an opportunity to reimagine how things could be. Find out more about and get involved in the campaign to crack the crises and ensure this opportunity for transformation is not lost.
Local: Consider as churches together what situations of injustice or exclusion exist in your locality. Work with others in your community to challenge and change the systems that need turning upside-down.
Personal: Take time today to sit in stillness and discern what injustice most disturbs your conscience, spend time praying, researching and planning how you can take action about it (if you are not already involved in doing so).

Verse / Poem
In the school Nativity Play
they cast the class bully as Herod.
Inspired.
No acting required.

Jesus, you ask
which role shall I play
in my world, your world, today.

And you will me to seek first
your holy inspiration
that I might be just
myself.

Questions
Global: Where have you seen the values of the Church disturbing
society’s values for the common good?
Local: Is your church or group of churches too comfortable in a
discomforting world? How could your church or group be disturbed into
real action?
Personal: When have you been disturbed into doing what was right?

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13 January: To A Blackbird Singing In London.

Mrs Turnstone likes to remind us that this is the day of the year that the Sun first appears in Greenland. It is also her birthday. While our son is happily settled in London, she feels she has lived there for as long as she ever wants to, but she’ll visit the town, take Abel to an exhibition, or meet up with friends.

After Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who left London to elope with Robert, here is Mary Webb who moved to London to foster her career as a writer. The move brought her little joy, for she was a deep-rooted Shropshire Lass. So here is a melancholic poem from her pen, but one that looks to the ‘stately sun’, symbol of undisdainful death as well as of new life. One of the symptoms of the hyperthyroid Graves’ disease that she endured was swelling of the face which made her feel ‘unlovely’, and aware of ‘slights and lies and unkindnesses’ that more robust souls would have shrugged off.

Despite the melancholy, the blackbird, who is now in good voice, transports Mary to the Shropshire Hills, landing there in Spring, aware in her whole being of Shropshire under the rain and sun. Her kinder life, will it be in heaven only, or also in the golden air of the Welsh borders? I like to think it was experienced on this earth as a gentle preparation for life eternal.

Sing on, dear bird! Bring the old rapturous pain,
In this great town, where I no welcome find.
Show me the murmuring forest in your mind,
And April's fragile cups, brimful of rain.
O sing me far away, that I may hear
The voice of grass, and, weeping, may be blind
To slights and lies and friends that prove unkind.
Sing till my soul dissolves into a tear,
Glimmering within a chaliced daffodil.
So, when the stately sun with burning breath
Absorbs my being, I'll dream that he is Death,
Great Death, the undisdainful. By his will
No more unlovely, haunting all things fair,
I'll seek some kinder life in the golden air.

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1 January: Francis teaches the gift of thanksgiving.

Ste Anne de Beaupre

Are you worried about the coming year? Are you happy to be alive? What would make you happy? Are you grateful for your existence? Chesterton calls us to learn from Saint Francis how to accept life as a gift from our Creator.

The full and final spirit in which we should turn to St. Francis is the spirit of thanks for what he has done. He was above all things a great giver; and he cared chiefly for the best kind of giving which is called thanksgiving. If another great man wrote a grammar of assent, he may well be said to have written a grammar of acceptance; a grammar of gratitude. He understood down to its very depths the theory of thanks; and its depths are a bottomless abyss. He knew that the praise of God stands on its strongest ground when it stands on nothing. He knew that we can best measure the towering miracle of the mere fact of existence if we realise that but for some strange mercy we should not even exist.”

From “Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis” by G. K. Chesterton.

Photo courtesy of Christina Chase.

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30 December: No longer furious but awestruck.

Job and his comforters.

[In the book of Job chapters 38 and 39] God asks whether Job is capable of comprehending or conceiving of the ways of natural creatures or phenomena. The speech covers earth, sea, morning, the underworld, light, snow, storm, rain, stars, clouds, lions, ravens, ibexes, wild asses, oxen, ostriches, horses, hawks, and falcons. The effect is twofold: Job finds himself no longer furious but awestruck, humbled by his tiny place in a colossal universe of immense complexity and deft design. Meanwhile his situation is transformed from a problem into a mystery. A problem is a straightforward deficit like a breakage or a malfunction that you can simply fix and return to how it should be; a mystery is something unique and wondrous, which absorbs the whole of your intellect, emotion, aptitude, and experience – you can only enter, after which your heart and soul will never be the same again. Before God’s speech Job is saying “Why won’t you fix this problem?” Afterward Job is saying, “Take me with you into this mystery.”

Fiona MacMillan and Samuel Wells, ‘Calling from the Edge’, Plough Weekly, 26/11/2022

We are facing the New Year with our fair share of problems. But the world we are created for is something unique and wondrous. Let us pray that our eyes may continue to be open to that great mystery, and so perceive the ways, tiny as they may seem, that we might tackle the problems.

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20 December: A lover’s words.

 Nature rarer uses yellow
    Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets, —
    Prodigal of blue,

 Spending scarlet like a woman,
    Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
    Like a lover's words.

from Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete, by Emily Dickinson.

I’m not sure I agree with Emily Dickinson about yellow! Think of all the daffodils, dandelions, marigolds, groundsel … The sunflowers seen above owe their presence in a Canterbury garden to more than a little human help: pre-Colombian American people saving the seeds, choosing the best to produce future crops; immigrants sending seed home where the process began again to find the best varieties to feed Europe and fill our gardens. The seed that grew this specimen was from a packet of bird seed.

So let’s be grateful for yellow, for daffodils and sunsets, cats’ eyes and sunflowers, and remember that they are embodied words of a lover, the Lover:

And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yieldeth seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit, having seed each one according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:11-12.

Listen out for the Lover’s words this Advent! O come, O come, Emmanuel.

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17 December: Advent meditation by Alice Meynell

from Bro Chris

MEDITATION

Rorate Cœli desuper, et nubes pluant Justum.
Aperiatur Terra, et germinet Salvatorem.

Mystic dew from Heaven
Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Saviour yield —
Fairest flower of the field”.
 

Translation from Catholic Encyclopedia

No sudden thing of glory and fear
   Was the Lord’s coming; but the dear
Slow Nature’s days followed each other
To form the Saviour from his Mother
—One of the children of the year.

The earth, the rain, received the trust,
—The sun and dews, to frame the Just.
   He drew his daily life from these,
   According to his own decrees
Who makes man from the fertile dust.

Sweet summer and the winter wild,
These brought him forth, the Undefiled.
   The happy Springs renewed again
   His daily bread, the growing grain,
The food and raiment of the Child.

Alice Meynell, a mother herself, was adamant that Jesus was a real human child. She was right, of course. ‘One of the children of the year’: my mind goes back a few hours to when we picked Abel up from his primary school to take him home. There he was, our eyes on him, but also aware of the rest of his class, the children of year 2 by English school reckoning. He can expect to spend the next nine or so years in the company of many of them.

I can imagine the children of Cairo and later Nazareth, playing with their companion, Jesus, learning to read together, taking him for granted.

Where did he get this wisdom?

From the sun and dews, and the fertile dust: from the Creation feeding and strengthening him, just as it should, just as he willed it to be.

Let us reread this poem slowly, and resolve not to take Jesus for granted, nor indeed our own existence, dependent as we are on ‘the earth, the rain, the sun and dews’. Laudato si.

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13 December: Tree planting with Martin Luther.


Talking of trees as we were yesterday: the L’Arche garden where we were listening and looking for the robin was blessed and opened by the then Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott. I found this quotation from Bishop Trevor the other day.

‘If I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today’. Of all that Martin Luther wrote and said, these words resonate strongly with me and, I would hope, with the whole Christian Church as we continue to seek and to bear out witness to Jesus Christ and to serve the needs of His world.

A world that badly needs trees! At the Glebe the other day we saw a squirrel planting nuts – or storing them for future use. Squirrel won’t remember them all. Some may well germinate and grow, in which case we gardeners will pot them on and think about where to plant them. If you don’t know where to plant yours, the Woodland Trust will do that for you in the UK; other charities will help people plant trees overseas and make sure they are watered and survive. Last December we met the Happy Man Tree in Hackney, London, which did not survive despite local pressure to keep it and build around it. It was felled earlier this year to make way for housing.

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12 December: A Minor Bird

556px-Blackcap_1a_(6996063938).jpg (556×480)

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.

Robert Frost.

Photo by Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons, male Eurasian Blackcap in Staffordshire, England.

Down at L’Arche Kent’s Glebe garden the other day it was coffee time. My friend said that he hadn’t seen our robin for a couple of weeks, only for the redbreast to burst into song a few metres away in the cypress tree. No chance of spotting him in there.

More than a few years ago my brother became frustrated with the collared doves, billing and cooing right outside his bedroom window; since they were in a yew tree there was no spotting them either. Relief came when the black silkie bantam took her brood to roost in the yew. All attempts to bring them down simply made them hop up higher, as they would have done in the jungle. But they displaced the doves, and my brother could sleep on those light summer mornings.

Too many songs have been silenced as we have desecrated our Mother Earth. Could you buy or make someone a bird nesting box this Christmas?

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11 December: Bin Ladies of New York: Creation XXXVII

Maggie Terry: "It is crazy to think about just how much we consume and how little we care about it." (Caila Rentz)

Maggie Terry: “It is crazy to think about just how much we consume and how little we care about it.” (Caila Rentz)

From the wild places under the stars to the city that never sleeps: quite a step! But it’s Christmas shopping time so we ought to give some thought to the waste that activity entails. it’s all part of stewardship of creation: being set over the works of God’s hands, as we read in Psalm 8 yesterday. This article on dumpster diving shows how some people are pushing back against the appalling waste they see all around them: food, furniture, clothes, toys, and more. It comes from the National Catholic Reporter; the link will take you to the full article. There are many differences between United Kingdom and the USA, but we too are guilty of tremendous waste: what are we doing about it?

Maggie Terry’s idea of a great night out in New York City is a little different from many of her peers’. Rather than heading to her couch or a cocktail bar to unwind after a day of work, she looks forward to something else: dumpster diving.

The 24-year-old elementary school teacher and her husband, Michael, spend their evenings (“every day but Saturday,” Terry says) digging through the trash for salvageable goods. Their finds are wide-ranging, from $400 worth of KitKats in a Walgreens dumpster one night to an antique Hartmann chest circa 1890 pulled from residential trash and valued at $3,000 the next.

The duo keeps what they can use — the Hartmann chest now serves as their coffee table — and redistributes the rest, by way of donation to food banks, charities, or just leaving goods out for free on their front stoop, where most items are taken by neighbors within 24 hours.

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