Tag Archives: Britain

21 March. Before the Cross VIII: an old postcard.

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To my eyes there is little to commend the art of this postcard which is over a century old, but while it may not be good art it screams out in pain. Each person in the ugly scene is tortured: Christ himself, the blood still wet on his body; the other crucified men, Jesus’ mother Mary and the beloved John, gallantly supporting her, and the prostrate Mary Magdalene.

Why has this card been preserved over all these years?

It was among the possessions of Doris, my wife’s grandmother, when she died. It had been bought in Poperinge, one of the few Belgian towns not occupied by the German army during the Great War, and sent to  Doris in Manchester. The second postcard shows a street in Poperinge with ‘the shop where I procured this card’ marked with an X. (The censor had blacked out the word Poperinge on the front of the card, but the fading ink has rendered it legible.)

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Who was it that procured these cards? The boyfriend whom Doris was never to marry because he was killed in battle. There are a few of his Valentines and greetings cards preserved with them.

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The crucifixion card was printed in Munich, a German city, yet he could set that fact aside and still see something in the picture that spoke to his situation, surrounded by death, knowing his own death could strike at any moment. He might well have heard the echo of these Good Friday words as he looked at the card and sent it to Doris.

He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:2-5

Poperinge was well known for ‘Toc H’ or Talbot House, a club founded for troops on leave by the Anglican chaplain, Rev’d Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton. It can still be visited to this day; a century ago it was a lifeline for battle weary men.

MMB

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You came to see me

Here is another post from Eddie Gilmore about the work of London’s Irish chaplaincy with prisoners, as well as an interesting reflection on his own early career and on friendship.

Will.

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3 April: Adam and Eve and Immigration to the Promised Land.

refugees-welcome

Yesterday we heard in Ezekiel’s prophecy how God would bring his people back to the Holy Land of Israel. Doug’s reflections on migration follow on very well from that reading.

Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people: and will bring you into the land of Israel.

Ezekiel 37:12

A cultural battle has been waged on both sides of “the pond”, playing itself out in politics.  First, in the U.K. there was Brexit, and in the U.S. there was the Executive Order of the newly elected President halting immigration of refugees from seven specific nations.

British and Americans proudly view their homelands as the Promised Land, if you will.  While many contend the common factor shared by Brexit and the Muslim Ban, is xenophobia, the bad feelings towards foreigners may not be based in fear, but in the belief that natural born citizens have rights that should not be, but are being, unfairly usurped by newcomers.

Place of birth does not guarantee virtuousness nor righteousness.  In Saint Ambrose’s writings on Paradise, he uses scripture to validate this claim.

As Saint Ambrose tells us, Adam was not native to the garden.  We see in Genesis 2:7-8 that it was after he was formed from the dust of the earth, then he was placed in the garden…making Adam the first refugee immigrating to a better place.

Eve on the other hand, was a native of Paradise, created from the rib of man (Genesis 2:22).

And, it was Eve, the native, who sinned first, and consummated the Fall of Man by deceiving Adam, the immigrant.

“You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt “(Leviticus 19:34).

DW.

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4 January: the Christmas Truce

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More than once I had heard the story of a Christmas Truce along the Western Front in 1914, and often as not someone would dismiss the idea. I was glad to find a book, written with the co-operation of the Imperial War Museum that makes clear that the Christmas Truce did occur*

The writers do not see the Truce as an irrelevance, rather a

‘precursor, a portent indeed, of the spirit of reconciliation now powerfully abroad as one century ends and a new age begins. From South Africa to Ireland, and perhaps most noticeably of all in the benevolent arm-in-arm relationship between France and Germany (whose deep-rooted antipathy … made the First World War virtually inevitable.’                          p vii.

They tell many stories, using diaries and other records of the time. This was reported in the Daily Telegraph as the account of a wounded French soldier:

‘he said that on the night of December 24th, the French and the Germans came out of their respective trenches and met halfway between them. They not only talked, exchanged cigarettes &c.,  but also danced together in rings.’        p 79.

There are many other accounts of how ‘we achieved what the pope (Benedict XV) could not do and in the middle of the war we had a merry Christmas.’ p 94.

Which was irrelevant: the Christmas Truce or the Great War?

Let us pray for Peace in this New Year.

*Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Pan, 2001. There are plenty of copies of this and other editions at Abe Books for less than £3.

Here is a link to the European Christmas Truce Tournament . Teenage boys from football clubs across Europe meet to play football, socialise, and visit the trenches, cemeteries and monuments of the Great War.

Photo Q 50719 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

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