It ought to be a firm principle rooted in us,
that this life is the most precious season in all Eternity,
because all Eternity dependeth on it.
Now we may do those actions
which hereafter we shall never have occasion to do.
And now we are to do them in another manner,
which in its place is the most acceptable in all worlds:
namely, by faith and hope,
in which God infinitely delighteth,
with difficulty and danger,
which God infinitely commiserates, and greatly esteems.
So piecing this life with the life of Heaven,
and seeing it as one with all Eternity,
a part of it,
a life within it:
Strangely and stupendously blessed
in its place and season.
‘This life is the most precious season in all Eternity, because all Eternity dependeth on it.’ I still find myself shaking my head at the piercing simplicity of this idea.
Lord, help me to see this life as a part of eternity,
strangely and stupendously blessed
in its place and season.
Here is another consecutive post from Sussex, and another reminder of what our vocation might consist of, today, this minute. There are people we cannot visit in person, but an email or postcard would be appreciated, and would have pride of place on the bookshelf or in the frame of the mirror, or under a fridge magnet, where it can give light to the whole house.
Among the inhabitants of the old town of Hastings was the mother of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, the admiral. A charming account of a visit paid to her by her son is given in De la Prynne’s diary from the end of the XVII Century.
I heard a gentleman say, who was in the ship with him about six years ago, that as they were sailing over against the town, of Hastings, in Sussex, Sir Cloudesley called out, ‘Pilot, put near; I have a little business on shore.’ So he put near, and Sir Cloudesley and this gentleman went to shore in a small boat, and having walked about half a mile, Sir Cloudesley came to a little house [in All Saints Street], ‘Come,’ says he, ‘my business is here; I came on purpose to see the good woman of this house.’
Upon this they knocked at the door, and out came a poor old woman, upon which Sir Cloudesley kissed her, and then falling down on his knees, begged her blessing, and calling her mother (who had removed out of Yorkshire hither). He was mightily kind to her, and she to him, and after that he had made his visit, he left her ten guineas, and took his leave with tears in his eyes and departed to his ship.
From Highways and Byways in Sussex, by E. V. Lucas.
As we were watching ‘Outside the City’, Nick Hamer’s dvd about the life of Mount Saint Bernard’s Abbey in Leicestershire, I was struck, among many things, by then-Abbot Erik Varden’s blessing of the new Brewery, on Saint George’s Day 2018. Here is an extract.
To abandon something one has always done (dairy farming) for something one knows nothing about is never easy. Today we can justly give thanks that this new industry has been established and rests on firm foundations. One of the fascinating things about beer, is that this (potentially) sophisticated beverage is made of the simplest ingredients. By being refined to manifest their choicest qualities; by being brought together in a favourable environment; by mingling their properties and so revealing fresh potential; by being carefully stored and matured, the humble malt, hops, yeast, and water are spirit-filled and bring forth something new, something nurturing and good, that brings joy to those who share it. Considered in this perspective, the brewery provides us with a parable for our monastic life, with the Lord as virtuoso brewmaster. The Scriptures favour wine as an image of the Gospel – but that is culturally conditioned; beer, it seems to me, is a much neglected theological symbol.
We thoroughly recommend both the beer and the dvd!
“Go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” John 15:16
Genesis 18:1-5Abraham hosts the angels at the Oak of Mamre
Mark 6:30-44Jesus’ compassion for the crowds
When we let ourselves be transformed by Christ, his love in us grows and bears fruit. Welcoming the other is a concrete way of sharing the love that is within us. Throughout his life, Jesus welcomed those he met. He listened to them and let himself be touched by them without being afraid of their suffering.
In the gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus is moved with compassion after seeing the hungry crowd. He knows that the entire human person must be nourished, and that he alone can truly satisfy the hunger for bread and the thirst for life. But he does not wish to do this without his disciples, without that little something they can give him: five loaves and two fish.
Even today he draws us to be co-workers in his unconditional care. Sometimes something as small as a kind look, an open ear, or our presence is enough to make a person feel welcome. When we offer our poor abilities to Jesus, he uses them in a surprising way. We then experience what Abraham did, for it is by giving that we receive, and when we welcome others, we are blessed in abundance.
“It is Christ himself whom we receive in a guest.”
[The rule of Taizé in French and English (2012) p. 103]
“Will the people we welcome day after day find in us men and women radiant with Christ, our peace?”
[The Sources of Taizé (2000) p. 60]
Jesus Christ, we desire to welcome fully
the brothers and sisters who are with us.
You know how often we feel helpless in the face of their suffering,
yet you are always there ahead of us
and you have already received them in your compassion.
Speak to them through our words,
support them through our actions,
and let your blessing rest on us all.
When you meet new people do they find you “radiant with Christ”?
As we pray together for greater unity how are we showing Christ’s welcome to other Christians?
Deuteronomy 30:11-20The word of God is very close to you
Matthew 5:1-12Blessed are you
The Word of God is very close to us. It is a blessing and a promise of happiness. If we open our hearts, God speaks to us and patiently transforms that which is dying in us. He removes that which prevents the growth of real life, just as the vine grower prunes the vine.
Regularly meditating on a biblical text, alone or in a group, changes our outlook. Many Christians pray the Beatitudes every day. The Beatitudes reveal to us a happiness that is hidden in that which is unfulfilled, a happiness that lies beyond suffering: blessed are those who, touched by the Spirit, no longer hold back their tears but let them flow and thus receive consolation. As they discover the wellspring hidden within their inner landscape, the hunger for justice, and the thirst to engage with others for a world of peace, grows in them.
We are constantly called to renew our commitment to life, through our thoughts and actions. There are times when we already taste, here and now, the blessing that will be fulfilled at the end of time.
Pray and work that God may reign.
Throughout your day
Let the Word of God breathe life into work and rest.
Maintain inner silence in all things
so as to dwell in Christ.
Be filled with the spirit of the Beatitudes,
joy, simplicity, mercy.”
Words recited daily by the Sisters of the Grandchamp Community]
Blessed are you,
God our Father,
for the gift of your word in Holy Scripture.
Blessed are you for its transforming power.
Help us choose life and guide us by your Spirit,
so that we can experience the happiness
which you want so much to share with us.
What does it mean to you that “God may reign” in your life? Is there anything you could change or adjust?
If your church(es) were to live the “Beatitudes” each day what difference would this make to the communities they serve?
What does it mean in our world today to be blessed by God?
I was looking for more poetry (What you might call ‘free verse’!) to read on my Kindle. Since we’ve used Joyce Kilmer a couple of times, I thought I’d look at some of his writing. This poem, The Twelve-forty-five seems appropriate coming up to Christmas. There were no motor cars on the road then, so people depended on the night train to get home late. Let’s pray for all travellers this Christmas, for those who would like to travel but cannot, and for all who will be apart when they would be together if they could; for those who have died and those left behind: the stars – the angels – are watchful over them.
Upon my crimson cushioned seat, In manufactured light and heat, I feel unnatural and mean. Outside the towns are cool and clean; Curtained awhile from sound and sight They take God’s gracious gift of night. The stars are watchful over them. On Clifton as on Bethlehem The angels, leaning down the sky, Shed peace and gentle dreams. And I — I ride, I blasphemously ride Through all the silent countryside.
What Love commands the train fulfills, And beautiful upon the hills Are these our feet of burnished steel. Subtly and certainly I feel That Glen Rock welcomes us to her And silent Ridgewood seems to stir And smile, because she knows the train Has brought her children back again. We carry people home — and so God speeds us, wheresoe’er we go.
The midnight train is slow and old But of it let this thing be told, To its high honor be it said It carries people home to bed. My cottage lamp shines white and clear. God bless the train that brought me here.
(The Twelve-forty-five, from “Trees and Other Poems” by Joyce Kilmer)
The saint rose to go on his way but those slugs would not leave him and began to follow the holy man wherever he went. On that same day, Saint Francis had been invited to dine at the house of the bishop. When he arrived there, a large number of slugs followed him into the house. The bishop, that holy pastor, was greatly astonished at this new wonder of nature and looked all about him for a shovel …until the saint asked: “My lord bishop, have you met my sisters?”
After they had been following him for two days, Saint Francis dismissed the slugs with a blessing, saying:
“Go now in peace, my sister slugs. Although you are lowly and despised among creatures, unwelcome in human society, there will always be a place for you in the Lord’s creation.”
At these words, the creatures turned and went on their way.
Not long after this, several slugs became renowned for their holiness. People came to consider the signs of their presence as a blessing and began to tread more carefully upon the earth.
A prayer from The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis As aspects of life return to normality, we pray especially for all who remain particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and are anxious about the dangers of infection: O Lord, our refuge, our hope, and our peace, be with us as our protector and our salvation. Keep us all safe from danger, calm those who are anxious in spirit, and help our whole society to work together to continue to protect the most vulnerable, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. The Lord bless us and keep us, the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us, the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.
Sourced via L’Arche Kent.
Some local churches will open for worship this weekend.
The Diocese of Nouakchott covers the desert land of Mauretania. The local population is 99% Muslim, but there is a growing expatriate Christian community under the care of Bishop Martin Happe, a Missionary of Africa.
He wrote at the end of last year:
We in the Diocese of Nouakchott had the joy of living through a special moment of grace, culminating in a big feast: the golden jubilee of our Cathedral of Saint Joseph!
The visible sign of this grace are the two side aisles we have added to our cathedral, since it had become too small on Sundays, and also the new altar in Atar stone which I had the privilege of consecrating on Gaudete Sunday, 15 December, with two bishops, many visiting priests and numbers of faithful. Gaudete! an invitation to the whole Church, just few days before Christmas, to be joyful. We had the grace to live this joy and taste it in an extraordinary way last 14 and 15 December.
But let’s not forget one thing: each time the Lord gives a particular grace to a person, a community, a people … this grace is always bound up in a new mission! Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples. So we must not forget that the enlarged and refurbished cathedral has as its vocation to be the place of where the Church of Nouakchott gathers together. I recalled in my homily that the Greek word for church ‘ecclesia’ means a people called together. Here in Nouakchott, we are called together every Sunday to receive once more our mission: to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person. For us, this means first and foremost the Mauritanians, the people who make us welcome and to whom the Lord has sent us.
Wherever we are, we can feel like a voice crying in the wilderness; people are indifferent to the Church, or downright hostile, the faults obscuring the graces for them. But whether our desert is in the sand or in the city, our mission is to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person; first and foremost to the people who welcome us into their lives as neighbours, work colleagues or family. To witness to the Love of God rather than seeking conversions.
Back in October, we left Francis and his companions newly arrived at Mount Alvernia, where they were welcomed by the birds. News of their coming son reached Orlando, the landowner who gave them leave to live there. Although we might think how idyllic this life might be, the picture shows what weather can do in the area. Not great for comfortable camping!
Orlando, hearing that Saint Francis with three companions had climbed up the mount of Alvernia, for to dwell there, rejoiced with exceeding great joy, and on the following day set out with many of the folk of his castle, and came to visit Saint Francis, bringing with him bread and wine and other victuals for him and his companions; and being come there, he found them at prayer, and drawing near unto them, saluted them. Then Saint Francis arose, and with great love and gladness gave welcome to Orlando and his company; and this done, they sat them down to have speech of each other. And after they had somewhat spoken together, and Saint Francis had given him thanks for the holy mountain that he had given him, and for his coming thither, he besought him that he would let build a poor little cell at the foot of a fair beech tree, the which was a stone’s throw from the place where the brothers lived, for that place seemed to him very fit and hallowed for prayer. And straightway Orlando let build it.
And as it was drawing near unto evening and it was time for them to depart, Saint Francis preached unto them a little, before they took leave of him; and when he had preached unto them and given them his blessing, Orlando, finding he must needs depart, called Saint Francis and his companions aside, and said unto them: “My brothers most dear, I would not have you suffer any bodily want in this wild mountain, whereby you might the less be able to give heed to spiritual things: and therefore I desire, and this I say to you for once, for all, that ye send to my house for whatsoe’er ye need, and if ye do otherwise, I shall take it ill of you.” And this said, he departed with his company and returned to his castle.