Tag Archives: Angels

5 May: Jacob and the Gate of Heaven, Gates XI

From God’s presence with Samuel Johnson in a dreadful storm to his presence in a ‘dreadful place’. Jacob called it Beth-el, the House-of-God, after the dream of the ladder, or staircase, between Heaven and Earth. William Blake has shown Jacob with arms outstretched, feet crossed, head to one side, reminiscent of the Crucified One, his descendant. So the Cross, our daily cross, is the Gate of Heaven, as shown in the weather vane of the former Holy Cross Church in Canterbury (now the Guildhall). Certainly the hill of Calvary was a dreadful place, but the opening of the Tomb completed its work and opened the Gate of Heaven.

The Cross is the Gate to Heaven

And when Jacob was come to a certain place, and would rest in it after sunset, he took of the stones that lay there, and putting under his head, slept in the same place. And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven: the angels also of God ascending and descending by it;  And the Lord leaning upon the ladder, saying to him: I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and IN THEE and thy seed all the tribes of the earth SHALL BE BLESSED. And I will be thy keeper whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land: neither will I leave thee, till I shall have accomplished all that I have said.

And when Jacob awaked out of sleep, he said: Indeed the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. And trembling he said: How terrible is this place! this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven.

And Jacob, arising in the morning, took the stone, which he had laid under his head, and set it up for a title, pouring oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of the city Bethel, which before was called Luza. And he made a vow, saying: If God shall be with me, and shall keep me in the way by which I walk, and shall give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, And I shall return prosperously to my father’s house: the Lord shall be my God: And this stone, which I have set up for a title, shall be called the house of God: and of all things that thou shalt give to me, I will offer tithes to thee.

Genesis 28:10-22.

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14 March, Mother’s Day: The Virgin Mary to Christ on the Cross

Winchester Cathedral.

Robert Southwell was a Jesuit missioner to England in the time of Elizabeth I; he was imprisoned, tortured, condemned and hung drawn and quartered. Paul VI canonised him as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Despite his religion, his poetry was respected in his lifetime. Much of it was overtly religious like this exploration of Mary’s feelings at Calvary. My apologies for presenting a less than sunny post today, England’s Mother’s Day, but there are mothers who will be forgotten this year, mothers who have lost children: let’s spare a thought and prayer for them. And give our own mothers a good day.

A sword will pierce your heart.

What mist hath dimm’d that glorious face?
What seas of grief my sun doth toss?
The golden rays of heavenly grace
Lies now eclipsèd on the cross.

Jesus, my love, my Son, my God,
Behold Thy mother wash’d in tears:
Thy bloody wounds be made a rod
To chasten these my later years.

You cruel Jews, come work your ire
Upon this worthless flesh of mine,
And kindle not eternal fire
By wounding Him who is divine.

Thou messenger that didst impart
His first descent into my womb,
Come help me now to cleave my heart,
That there I may my Son entomb.

You angels, all that present were
To show His birth with harmony,
Why are you not now ready here,
To make a mourning symphony?

The cause I know you wail alone,
And shed your tears in secrecy,
Lest I should movèd be to moan,
By force of heavy company.

But wail, my soul, thy comfort dies,
My woful womb, lament thy fruit;
My heart give tears unto mine eyes,
Let sorrow string my heavy lute.

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6 January: So Quiet the Night

Sheila Billingsley understands that the sweetness we need at Christmas is more than soft-centred chocolates or saccharine carols in the Supermarket. Those bring very little joy. But the joy of Christmas is paradoxical …

When Christmas seems like Calvary
And stars concealed by cloud, 
With stable dark
And manger cold, we seek our childhood's needs
Of sweetness and angels' song.

So quiet the night ...

As we,

Rest in the care,
The wondrous care, of a new-born scrap - to be ...
Our King,
     Our Hope,
          Our Strength,
               Our Love.
to be our Joy.

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5 January: Sweet singing in the choir

Today’s post is an extract from a longer article from the Hermit of Saint Bruno. Worth reading in full, I’m sure much in there will resonate with you, especially if we cannot sing together this Christmastide!

Carthusian monks spend a lot of time singing in choir and cell. They gather to sing the Mass in the morning, then to sing the Office of Vespers at the end of the day, and at night for the long Office of Readings and Lauds. It is the common activity that takes the most time in the life of the monks.

Not only is Gregorian chant inseparable from the liturgy – it is not an ornament – but it is considered an essential spiritual instrument. The Statutes specify it thus:

“Let us observe this manner of chanting, singing in the sight of the most Holy Trinity and the holy angels, penetrated with fear of God and aflame with a deep desire. May the songs we sing raise our minds to the contemplation of eternal realities, and our voices blend into one cry of jubilation before God our Creator.” (Statutes book VI, §52:25)

The Statutes state precisely that singing can elevate the spirit to contemplation of God, that is, to the highest one can expect here below.

To round off this reflection, may I send you back three years to this video from the Poor Clares of Lilongwe, singing and dancing their prayers.

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3 January: And the Angels Sang.

Here is another posting by Eddie Gilmore of London’s Irish Chaplaincy. I’ve just shared a paragraph from the middle, but the whole article, and the links he provides, are worth your perusal. Eddie writes as a musician, so his thoughts on angels and other intelligent beings’ singing are most interesting.

We are told that angels sang at the birth of Christ. Who were those celestial beings that sang at an event that was never going to be on the front page of the Bethlehem Gazette? Whoever they were, I’ll bet they laid down a good tune, with some sublime harmonies and with no one angel hogging the limelight. And what about their unusual audience that starry night? Shepherds, who were outcasts in their community because staying out in the fields at all hours meant that they were unable to observe the normal rituals of the Jewish faith, and who might as well have been a bit tipsy, since they were known to have a little toddy to keep themselves warm. And then those three mysterious characters who had followed a star and who arrived with gifts that the mother of a newly-born wouldn’t exactly find that practical!

I have to say, though, I thought the wise men’s gifts had their uses. Gold would have got the Family to Egypt and bought new tools for Joseph. Frankincense might have sweetened the air of the stable, myrrh helped look after Baby Jesus’ skin, especially in the nappy area. At least, so I used to tell the children!

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26 December: Venite, Adoremus

A Welsh shepherd on horseback

Another poem from Father Andrew. We won’t be able to press through the church doors this year, but still, every soul should be a shrine for God’s Eternal Son. We can all light a candle upon the altar that is our family dining table.

‘Come along, shepherds,’ the Angels cried,
‘Come along, every one!
For great things happen on earth to-night,
And you shall see a wondrous sight –
In bed of straw, on napkin white,
Come down to earth from heaven’s height
God’s own Eternal Son.’

‘Come along, comrades,’ the Shepherds cried,
And quick those men did run,
And in they pressed through the humble door,
And low they knelt on the stable floor,
Where Mary and Joseph, as poor as poor,
In rich contentment did adore
God’s own Eternal Son.

‘Come along, Christians,’ the bells ring out,
‘Ding-a-dong, come along, come along!’
For round the Altar tapers shine,
Where waits our Saviour, yours and mine,
Veiled ‘neath the mystic Bread and Wine,
And every soul should be a shrine
For God’s Eternal Son.

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8 October, Little Flowers LXXX: Dens in the Woods 4.

York Minster

Saint Francis was one day thinking on his death and of the state of his Order when his life was done, and saying: “O Lord God, what will become of Thy poor little family after my death, the which of Thy goodness Thou hast entrusted to me a sinner? who will pray to Thee for them? and other such words. There appeared unto him an Angel sent by God, and comforted him, saying : “I tell thee in the name of God, that the profession of the Order will never fail until the Day of Judgment, and there will be no sinner so great as not to find mercy with God, if with his whole heart he love thine Order, and none shall live long, that of malice persecutes thy Order. Moreover no very wicked person within thy Order, that does not amend his life, will be able to remain long in the Order.

Wherefore grieve not thyself, if in thine Order thou see certain that be not good brothers and do not observe the Rule as they ought, and think not that thereby this order will decline; for always a many shall be found therein that will perfectly observe the Gospel life of Christ and the purity of the Rule; and all such, immediately after the death of the body; and all such shall go into life eternal without passing through Purgatory; some will observe it but not perfectly, and these before they go to Paradise will be in Purgatory, but the time of their purification shall be left by God to thee.
But of him that observes not the Rule at all, take no heed, saith God, for of such He Himself taketh no heed.”

And said these words, the Angel was away, and Saint Francis comforted and consoled.

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21 May: Ascension Day

Ascension and Pentecost

This window explicitly links the Ascension to Pentecost, ten days later. And there seems to be a female presence in the shape of Mary and another woman in each scene, which is as it should be, despite the Lectionary airbrushing the women out of the Pentecost day reading from Acts.

But today is Ascension Day – Why are you looking up into the sky? What do you expect to see?

Or we could put the Angel’s question another way: if you are looking for Jesus where do you expect to find him? Among the clouds; really? Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it for me. It began with mutual support as the disciples continued to come to grips with all that had happened.

Here and now we can pray for the Spirit to fill our hearts with love, and give us eyes to see Jesus in our neighbours, family, friends.

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6 May: Little flowers of Saint Francis LXXI: heavenly gifts.

St Francis at Ste Anne de Beaupre, Canada



Brother John of Alvernia, while yet a boy and living in the world, desired with all his heart to tread the path of penitence that keepeth pure both body and soul, whereby being still a little child, he began to wear the shirt of mail and iron girdle on his flesh, and to use great abstinence and above all, he shunned all carnal delights and mortified his body with great severity of abstinence but inspired of God he minded to leave the world with the lovers thereof, and to offer himself wholly unto the arms of the Crucified, in the habit of the crucified Saint Francis; and even so he did.

And being received into the Order while yet a boy, and committed unto the care of the master of the novices, he became so spiritually minded and so devout, that many a time hearing the said master speaking of God, his heart would melt like wax before the fire; and the love of God kindled in him such sweetness of grace, that not being able to remain still to endure such sweetness, he would get up, and as one drunken in spirit, would run, now through the garden, now through the wood, now through the church, according as the flame and the ardour of the spirit drave him.

The divine grace made this angelic soul to grow continually from virtue unto virtue, and in heavenly gifts, being uplifted unto God and rapt in ecstasy; so that at one time his mind was lifted up to the splendours of the Cherubim, at another time to the ardours of the Seraphim, at another to the joys of the Blessed, at another to the loving and ineffable embraces of Christ. And above all, once upon a time in exceeding wondrous fashion his heart was kindled with the fire of love divine, and this flame lasted in him for full three years, in which time he received marvellous consolations and visitations divine, and oftentimes was rapt in God, and in short, in the said time he seemed all on fire and burning with the love of Christ; and all this was on the holy mount of Alvernia.

Who today would counsel a young boy to wear penitential clothes? At least the Franciscans of the time let him run, run, run, like Zorba and his dancing. But things take a turn after three years.

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May 4, Little flowers of Saint Francis LXIX: a tree fair to see.

LXIX BROTHER JACQUES of La Massa, unto whom God gave perfect knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures and of things to come was of so great sanctity that Brother Giles of Assisi, Brother Mark of Montino, Brother Juniper, and Brother Lucido said that they knew of no one in the world that found greater favour in the sight of God than this Brother Jacques.

Brother Jacques with great humility confessed that he beheld in a dream a tree fair to see and very great, whose root was of gold, and its fruits were men, and they were all of them Brothers Minor. Its main branches were distinctly marked according to the number of the provinces of the Order, and each branch had as many brothers as there were in the province whose name was written on the branch. And he saw Brother John of Parma on the highest point of the midmost branch of this tree, and on the tops of the branches round about were the ministers of all the provinces.

And thereafter he saw Christ sitting on a throne exceeding great and shining, and Christ called Saint Francis up thither and gave him a chalice full of the spirit of life, and sent him forth saying : “Go, visit thy brothers, and give them to drink of this chalice of the spirit of life; for the spirit of Satan will rise up against them and will strike them, and many of them will fall and will not rise up again.”

And Christ gave unto Saint Francis two angels to bear him company. Then came Saint Francis to give the chalice of life to his brothers; and he gave it first to Brother John of Parma: who, taking it, drank it all in haste, devoutly; and straightway he became all shining like the sun. And after him Saint Francis gave it to all the other brothers in order; and there were but few among them that took it with due reverence and devotion, and drank it all. Those that took it devoutly and drank it all, became straightway shining like the sun ; but those that spilled it ail and took it not devoutly, became black, and dark, and misshapen, and horrible to see; but those that drank part and spilled part, became partly shining and partly dark, according to the measure of their drinking or spilling thereof.

I rarely remember my dreams and the scraps and figments that linger barely make sense. But reading this one, we can pray that, like James and John, we can drink the cup that Jesus drank to the very end, and shine with him so that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

This picture, from Brother Chris, shows a tree of Francis’s life. John of Parma was the seventh Minister General of the Franciscans.

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