This reflection of Thomas Traherne follows well on WH Davies’ poetic heels, this May morning.
When Amasis the King of Egypt sent to the wise men of Greece, to know, Quid Pulcherrimum?* upon due and mature consideration they answered, The World. The world certainly being so beautiful that nothing visible is capable of more. Were we to see it only once, the first appearance would amaze us. But being daily seen, we observe it not.
Ancient philosophers have thought God to be the Soul of the World. Since therefore this visible World is the body of God, not His natural body, but which He hath assumed; let us see how glorious His wisdom is in manifesting Himself thereby. It hath not only represented His infinity and eternity which we thought impossible to be represented by a body, but His beauty also, His wisdom, goodness, power, life and glory; His righteousness, love, and blessedness: all which as out of a plentiful treasury, may be taken and collected out of this world.
On the eve of his death, Jesus prayed for the unity of those the Father gave him: “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe”. Joined to him, as a branch is to the vine, we share the same sap that circulates among us and vitalizes us.
Each tradition seeks to lead us to the heart of our faith: communion with God, through Christ, in the Spirit. The more we live this communion, the more we are connected to other Christians and to all of humanity. Paul warns us against an attitude that had already threatened the unity of the first Christians: absolutising one’s own tradition to the detriment of the unity of the body of Christ. Differences then become divisive instead of mutually enriching. Paul had a very broad vision: “All are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Cor 3:22-23).
Christ’s will commits us to a path of unity and reconciliation. It also commits us to unite our prayer to his: “that they may all be one. . .so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
“Never resign yourself to the scandal of the separation of Christians who so readily profess love for their neighbour, and yet remain divided. Make the unity of the body of Christ your passionate concern.”
[The Rule of Taizé in French and English (2012) p. 13]
vivifying fire and gentle breath,
come and abide in us.
Renew in us the passion for unity
so that we may live in awareness of the bond that unites us in you.
May all who have put on Christ at their Baptism unite
and bear witness together to the hope that sustains them.
Are you resigned to the scandal of separation of Christians?
What part of your tradition is vital and life giving and what can you learn from what is vital and life giving within other Christian traditions?
What could be the impact on the world of greater unity between the churches?
On the eve of his death, Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his disciples. He knew the difficulty of living together and the importance of forgiveness and mutual service. “Unless I wash you,” he said to Peter, “you have no share with me.” Peter received Jesus at his feet; he was washed and was touched by the humility and gentleness of Christ. Later he would follow Jesus’ example and serve the fellowship of the faithful in the early church. Jesus wishes that life and love circulate through us as the sap through the vine, so that Christian communities be one body. But today as in the past, it is not easy to live together. We are often faced with our own limitations. At times we fail to love those who are close to us in a community, parish or family. There are times when our relationships break down completely. In Christ we are invited to be clothed in compassion, through countless new beginnings. The recognition that we are loved by God moves us to welcome each other with our strengths and weaknesses. It is then that Christ is in our midst.
“With almost nothing, are you a creator of reconciliation in that communion of love, which is the Body of Christ, his Church? Sustained by a shared momentum, rejoice! You are no longer alone, in all things you are advancing together with your brothers and sisters. With them, you are called to live the parable of community.” [The Sources of Taizé (2000) pp. 48-49]
How St Mildred’s, St Dunstan’s and St Peter’s in Canterbury are facing the new restrictions. Some day we’ll be glad of the record!
Good morning to you all, and I do hope this finds you well in these difficult times. A lot has been going on behind the scenes – hence today. Temporary closure of our church buildings
The PCC’s of both of our Parishes, and our ministry team, have agreed that we temporarily suspend corporate worship in our buildings with immediate effect, and move onto on-line provision, live streaming our services from St Dunstan’s with a 10.00 Sunday Eucharist. This will be the pattern of worship until Sunday February 21st 2021, when the situation will be reviewed, and hopefully more of our folk will have been vaccinated, and the virus less prevalent.
We are legally permitted to keep our church buildings open for corporate worship, if we feel it is wise and safe to do so. Bishop Rose has advised in a letter to clergy, that this is a may, and not a must. She reminds us that we have a duty of care for everyone particularly those who are vulnerable or who may be most at risk from this virus.
With the demographics of our congregations being predominantly elderly and vulnerable (over 70), the safest option for all, in this current climate, is to temporarily close our buildings for corporate worship; particularly in light of the CofE guidance that states, “The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.”
The safety of our vulnerable congregations is absolutely paramount, and with this in mind, we are temporarily closing our buildings and moving our worship online, which folk can watch from the safety of their homes. I assure you that this has not been an easy decision for myself and the PCC’s, but it is in the interests of keeping everyone safe, and we have hope.
I appreciate that for some this will be a huge disappointment; and for others you may feel comforted by this decision. Either way may you be reassured by The Bishop of London’s words – who chairs the Church of England Covid recovery group: “There is hope. The vaccination programme is underway and, as Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself. As we have been remembering this Christmas Season, even in the midst of our darkest fears, that hope brings light.”
May I remind you that although buildings will be temporarily closed, the church is not shut – we are the Body of Christ, the church, and we can love and support one another with phone calls, and prayers, and keeping connected to one another. For those who are in touch with are offline folk, please can you let them know of this decision.
God Bless you all, and please do keep safe, keep connected and keep praying. Jo Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury
Thank you to Revd Jo Richards for reminding us of this prayer of St Teresa of Avila, whose feast is today.
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Image from Wikipedia, public domain, believed to be a copy from a live portrait.
This post is a response to Ignatius’ reflection of yesterday. WT.
It’s always good to see your posts in my inbox. Once again, you’ve got me thinking. Thomas’s five ways to be a glutton would seem to encompass that other modern phenomenon, anorexia, if you count that as a form of ‘too daintily’.
We are not all called to be ascetic monks or nuns after the pattern of John Cassian but you have a point when you suggest that most people in the Western world are infected with gluttony.
‘With nourishment in mind’ I think is the key to discerning a right attitude to food and drink. But what are we aiming to nourish?
We speak of a feast for the eyes; it is good to present food handsomely, whether it be a birthday cake, a bowl of porridge, Sunday roast or Marmite on toast; that is to respect food and those who provide it, from the Creator of all to the checkout operator. So there should be nourishment for the senses: all of them. Sight we have mentioned; Smell and taste of course; touch, not just of finger food but the crunch of fresh batter giving way to soft, just cooked fish; hearing: the sound of cooking, of cutlery on plates, of grace said or sung.
Yes, there’s nourishment for the soul as well. Grace before a meal is perhaps the formal start of feeding the soul, to be continued through conversation, but it happens all the way through from the purchase or growing of ingredients, choosing what looks and promises to taste good for those at our table: K likes that goat’s cheese, we’ll have some of that. We can enjoy blackberry ice cream at Christmas if we fill our baskets on a family walk in August.
We can feed body, soul, family and community if we join events which include a shared meal, street parties, parish picnics, even humbly contributing to cake sales.
I think that respect for food ‘from farm to fork’ would go a long way to combatting gluttony and obesity; grow what you can, even if it’s only windowsill herbs from the supermarket, so you have a connection with the land; buy fresh if you can; eat less fashionable parts of animals and generally eat less meat. Cook from scratch with your fellow diners in mind. Whether as cook or diner, be thankful for food and for all that goes with it. And bear in mind that many people go hungry all over the world.
T wished Greta a good evening and went to round up the parrot hunters. Before he knew it he was face-to-face with a rather overweight police sergeant who was walking sedately through the park. T saw the official look descend over the lawman’s face and felt sure the doglets were being a nuisance to some poor creature. He recognised the sergeant, a former pupil of his friend Will Turnstone, so seized the initiative.
‘Callum, good to see you. How’s life in the force? Am I allowed to stand and chat with you?’‘
Callum had heard that conversational gambit more than a few times. ‘Come on Mr T, you should have those creatures under control. That woman in the red coat says they were chasing squirrels.’
‘And did they ever catch one? They just keep the squirrel population in training.’‘ Well, she can see I’ve had a word with you, but call them in, please.’
T called the boys in English and flashed his urgent call in Ossyrian telepathy. ‘If you don’t want to end up in the stray dogs’ home, you’d best get over here.’ They came.
‘Thanks Mr T,’ said the sergeant. ‘Beware of little old ladies who bring peanuts for the squirrels. She knows she shouldn’t do it but there’s no arguing with her. Good bye and enjoy your walk!’
They watched him plod on. ‘If you two are having fun, can you not keep half an eye out for trouble?’ T complained.
‘We minded your bag while you were in the pool. You should keep watch for us when we are chasing squirrels.’
T felt there was something lacking in Ajax’s logic, but the exhilaration in their bearing suggested that they had gained as much from their noisy run around as he had from his quiet swim. Such joys were available virtually in Ossyria, but he had to admit that the earthly cool water and warm air were the real thing, the home version of total immersion now seemed somewhat lacking. True, Superstud Doggynutz were a poor substitute for the crunchy squirrel thighs the chihuahuas craved, but who has everything? Ossyrians were so sure that they did, but they could learn from crazy generous humans any day.
There is a moment of truth in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when the latent emotions of the rude mechanicals’ play emerge to touch their audience at the wedding feast. At Mass there should be moments of truth. Despite the crooked translation, it is for ministers, to the best of their ability, to speak the words, to love the Word as though it were alive, as though they believe it, as though it were awesome; from ‘In the Name of the Father’ by way of ‘The Word of the Lord’, ‘Through your goodness’, ‘This is my Body’, ‘the Body of Christ’ (looking the communicant in the eye), to ‘Go in Peace’. A challenge, truly.
There are moments in liturgy as in life, when silence can and should be observed:
Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another —
Let us hold hands and look.”
She, such a very ordinary little woman;
He, such a thumping crook;
But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels
In the teashop’s ingle-nook.
John Betjeman, ‘In a Bath Teashop’
Silence can bring focus and awe: when I led Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the parish Mass I used to ask my ‘very ordinary’ child readers to count to ten in their heads to allow reflection between the bidding – let us ask God to …, and its prayer – Lord hear us.
Silence between the consecration and the acclamation; silence before inviting everyone to join in the Lord’s Prayer, silence after communion: these can inspire a sense of awe. All should participate in these silences, unlike the silence of the old rite with the priest mumbling prayers and not really silent at all, and the congregation praying the Rosary.
SPB sent us a link to tis talk given by Fr Mark Scott to the Cistercian Community at New Mellary Abbey, Iowa, USA. This is a short extract from a thought provoking talk; do follow the ink and read it all. It may help understand Romans as well as the virus!
There may be a virus sitting there on the fork or on the elevator button or on the door handle, and if it just stays there it is harmless. It cannot move on its own, it doesn’t reproduce on its own or through mating, it doesn’t do anything. A virus becomes active when it has something like us to enter and attach to … your cell structure has fully to cooperate with the virus so that, in biblical language, the two almost become one, and baby viruses are born. And then the virus goes viral within you and all around the world …
I think of what Saint Paul says about sin “finding an opportunity in the commandment” and so “producing every kind” of sin of the same genus and species. Like a virus, “apart from the Law sin is dead . . . but when the commandment came sin became alive” (Rom 7:8, 9). Where? “In me.”
The risen Lord by Saint Dunstan, monk, blacksmith, artist, and Archbishop of Canterbury. Died 988; his feastday is today.
Easter lasts for fifty days – until Pentecost, when the season of the Holy Spirit begins. George Herbert reminds us that we miss-count the days and seasons: there is just the one day that matters and that day, Easter, is not over in 24 hours, but is eternal, or as Herbert says, ‘ever’. Enjoy the physical images, ‘calcined’, resounding wood, strings and sinews; Herbert was a musician.
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise Without delays, Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise With him mayst rise: That, as his death calcined thee to dust, His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part With all thy art. The cross taught all wood to resound his name, Who bore the same. His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song Pleasant and long: Or, since all music is but three parts vied And multiplied, O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part, And make up our defects with his sweet art.
I got me flowers to straw thy way; I got me boughs off many a tree: But thou wast up by break of day, And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
The Sun arising in the East, Though he give light, and th’ East perfume; If they should offer to contest With thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this, Though many suns to shine endeavour? We count three hundred, but we miss: There is but one, and that one ever.