Tag Archives: Arthur Walter Hughes M.Afr.

15 August: The flooding of the Nile

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The Assumption of Mary and the Flooding of the Nile: two feasts on the same day, can we connect them?

The Nile, of course, is life to Egypt, water and fertility. Here is Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, just arrived in Cairo in 1942 after working in Ethiopia, then often called Abyssinia:

The heavy rains of Abyssinia run down from her mountains and hillsides in torrents and go to swell the River Nile as it flows out of Lake Tana. I thought how those Biblical years in the Old Testament – the seven years of thinness and famine in Egypt – were due of course to seven years of slight or no rains in Abyssinia. This year here at Cairo the River is very high: August the 17th is Feast of the Nile and has been for thousands of years, since for thousands of years the month of August brings down to the Nile Delta the torrential rains of Abyssinia and the Nile overflows its banks and waters the lands and forms that green belt of vegetation in the middle of the desert which is Egypt.

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Mary provided an oasis of love where her son could grow into boyhood and manhood, for the first few years in Egypt, traditionally in the Cairo area. Imagine her in the market, buying food grown in the fertile soil of the delta, just as we do – though she would not have bought Egyptian potatoes or tomatoes, as we have done this Spring.

Let us be grateful for the food we receive from Egypt and around the world; let’s pray for true peace in Egypt and the Middle East; and let’s thank God for Mary’s loving care of her Son, and the true peace which he brings.

MMB.

I do not know why we have two slightly different dates for the Nile Feast! MMB.

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15 March, Human Will X: No permanent city here.

 

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The future Archbishop Arthur Hughes is front centre above with fellow Missionaries of Africa in 1934 just before he left Europe for Uganda, where he would later be posted to Gulu. Here are some thoughts of his on carrying out God’s will and the joys and hardships he experienced in the process. He is writing to his parents. Missionaries of Africa are commonly called White Fathers because of their habit.

I stayed in Gulu until on the 27th March 1942 I got a telegram from the Mombasa  [Apostolic] Delegation asking me to go to Abyssinia.

Like a true White Father I obeyed instantly and the very next morning at nine was crossing the Atura ferry on my way back to Rubaga en route for the coast and Abyssinia. I will not hide from you that I found it a wrench leaving Gulu and the journey was rather sad in a way: but missionaries have no permanent city here and sadness is not part of our life and certainly not part of mine. The will of God must rule our life and in carrying out that will we find our greatest joy.

I left Rubaga the following Wednesday and went to Mombasa to await a boat for Berbera. I arrived in Berbera on the 6th May and went up by military convoy through Somaliland to Ethiopia.[1] The journey through Somaliland has no attractions: poor old Somaliland being for the most part a most appalling desert with an amazing number of camels (more than I ever saw in North Africa). We stayed for a few days at Lafaruk: an appalling camp in the desert while our convoy was in formation.[2] Once you rise up towards Jijiga the country becomes green and then becomes cold – too cold for my liking. The famous Mahda Pass is stupendously beautiful and then the first view of the town of Harar is really rather lovely. It’s a very old town; really a sort of Turkish[3] town amongst the hills.

From Harar to Diredawa you have thirty miles of sheer beauty amongst the mountains – a most wonderful road winds round the hills and above you on the heights you can still see the remains of the ancient camel tracks over which tradition has it that the Queen of Sheba travelled when she went from Ethiopia to the Holy Land in the days of King Solomon… At Diredawa I left the military convoy and the good Officers with whom I had made friends on the way and took the Littorina electric train to Addis.

From the 12th May to the 12th August I stayed in Addis with of course occasional trips to other places rendered necessary by my work.

…  I must confess that I did not like the Ethiopian climate. I found it too high for me (it is nine thousand feet up in most places) and I was there in the rainy season and found it most unpleasant after sunny Uganda. It simply rains unceasingly for three or four months and is most unpleasant and always cold. I found this very painful indeed. Also I was there only on a temporary mission and there was not as much to do as I should have liked. It was therefore a very great delight to me when on the 29th July I got a letter from Archbishop Dellepiane in the Congo[7] writing to inform me that the Holy Father had decided to confide in me the control of the Apostolic Delegation of Egypt and Palestine.

[1] Berbera was the principal port in British Somaliland. The road to Ethiopia is being rehabilitated with European aid: http://somalilanddevelopmentfund.org/news/75-official-launch-of-lafaruk-berbera-sheikh-road-rehabilitation-project

[2] The British had a POW Camp for 35,000 Italian soldiers; its desolation can be imagined from the background to the Lafaruk Madonna by Giuseppe Baldan. Did Fr Hughes celebrate Mass before this triptych? No doubt the convoy was a precaution against guerrillas. http://scottishchristian.com/the-maize-sack-masterpiece-that-symbolises-hope-in-africa-over-60-years-on/ . Accessed 4/11/2016.

[3] Harar had been a Moslem city-state.

[4] Where he was Apostolic Delegate – http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bdell.html

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23 October: Wit, wilderness, weeds and wetness.

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Neither Scottish burn nor chalk stream, but a brook in the way, roll-rocking down a Polish Mountain.

He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head. Psalm 110.7

I was reading a letter written ninety years ago by Fr Arthur Hughes, MAfr, later an Archbishop. He told his sister how he regretted that rain and subsequent Hampshire mud meant he would not be able to go down to a brook near Botley and there, as was his custom, drink, citing Psalm 110.

Then, on the train home I read an advertisement for an urban survival course; readers might feel confident they could find water in the wild, but after a disaster, could they find water in the city? Hughes had a reputation for finding fun in the Scriptures – by my reading drinking from the brook was a concrete prayer, laughing at himself in the process.

The apocalyptic warriors sound paranoid. Weren’t cities abandoned when disaster struck, from Great Zimbabwe to Roman Canterbury? Plenty of water elsewhere outside the city, and more food!

Hopkins’ poem Inversnaid, describing a brook very different to the clear waters of Hampshire, is a prayer without the name of God being mentioned. Is the beadbonny ash  perhaps the rowan  or mountain ash? (This one grows beside Canterbury’s chalk river, the Stour.)

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Inversnaid

This darksome burn, horseback brown,

His rollrock highroad roaring down,

In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam

Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth

Turns and twindles over the broth

Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,

It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew

Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through

Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern

And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet,

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

MMB.

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