Tag Archives: Cambridge

10 February: Peterborough’s Dean Peckard and the Abolition of Slavery.

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Dean of Peterborough Cathedral, 1792-1799, Peter Peckard was also Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and later Vice-Chancellor of the University.

He was a strong advocate of the right of slaves to be free and encouraged his students to study the principles embodied in the slogan, ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’

Follow the link to learn more about him, including a talk by a present day Master of Magdalene, Dr Rowan Williams.

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January 4: Coming together at Christmastide.

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A short while before Christmas Janet, John from Uganda and I turned up at the ancient church of Saint Mildred in Canterbury for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. L’Arche being L’Arche, we often find ourselves straddling the denominations like this. Saint Mildred’s is a home from home: The L’Arche garden occupies the Glebe here1. We use their kitchen, have refreshments with the ladies on Friday mornings, and help with Harvest Festival; we have barbecues in summer, watch birds in January, and our pilgrimage across Kent finished here last May.

To represent L’Arche, now an important part of the parish, I was invited by the Rector, Jo Richards, to read the Matthew infancy narrative at the service. Saint Mildred’s is a far cry from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge whose Nine Lessons and Carols is world famous. Saint Mildred’s is not beset with Tudor self-justification and aggrandisement, as King’s is, but it looks as good, in its own way, by candlelight.

This old church remembers our little local Saxon princess who did things her own way, which was the Lord’s. She was one of those determined 7th Century princesses who wanted to study and pray in a religious community: her community is now established back at Minster Abbey where our contributor, Sister Johanna lives out her calling.

And if a few more of today’s young women were given their chance to discover, discern and live out their vocation within the church where would we be? And we are most grateful for the faithful witness of friendship extended to us by the ladies of the parish, together with Church warden Mary and Rector Jo. That helps to bring the Church back together; we should not do things apart that we could do together; we can see this maxim working well locally with the shared welcome for homeless people given by the churches.

Here is the statue of the greatest Christian woman of all time with her Son, within Saint Mildred’s church. It was candlelit for the Nine Lessons and Carols.

1A Glebe was land set apart for a parish priest to support himself – an ecclesiastical allotment.

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26 March. Before the Cross XII: the beatific vision.

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Rood, Our Lady and English Martyrs, Cambridge.

This Crucifix is like that of Tignes a couple of days ago in one respect: it is a representation of the Risen Christ, but in a different context, and equally valid.

This Victorian Rood, full of symbolism, is in the Catholic Church of Or Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, England. It is challenging in a different way to some of the other images we have seen this Lent, but like the Welcoming Christ, it is essentially an image of resurrection. No way is this Christ dead or in agony!

So what is the Rood telling us?

Let’s start with the Christ figure. We see a man in the prime of life, vigorously alive, not hanging naked on the cross but standing tall and robed in majesty. No-one could say of him, he cannot save himself! The crown on his head is of royal gold, not thorns; the nails in his hands and feet are in gold also, but lest we forget the earthly reality of the cross, we see red blood on his palms and insteps. As well as a King’s crown, he wears the long white alb and the red scarf or stole of a priest vested for Mass.

The white scarf around his neck is called a pallium. These are woven from lambs’ wool and given to archbishops by the pope. One appears on the coat of arms of Canterbury Anglican diocese and that of Westminster Catholic diocese. As well as announcing Christ as high priest, the pallium is associated with the idea of the Good Shepherd who brings home the lost sheep, and with the sacrificial Lamb of God.

The alb is a symbol of purity – we see in the Book of Revelation all the saints in white garments. Christ’s here has red trimmings; together with the red stole they tell of blood shed in martyrdom or persecution. The priest celebrating Mass today wears an alb to show that he is representing Christ, the High Priest, and seeks to be as saintly as the white garment implies. Christ, of course, has every right to wear the white garment, and each baptised Christian is given a white garment at Baptism: so we are crucified and risen with Christ: a thought to sustain us in times of hardship.

At the foot of the Cross stand Mary – the dedicatee of the Church, and John the Apostle and Evangelist. They are not mourning in this Resurrection Crucifixion but are absorbed in the beatific vision: this cross presents the artist’s interpretation of the true meaning of the Crucifixion.

Angels adore the Lord from around the Cross: again sending us to Revelation and pointing out the one-ness of Creation, of our world of time and space where Jesus died in Jerusalem with the heavenly Jerusalem where he is Priest and King; King of All Creation, not just of the Jews.

At the foot of the Cross and along its trunk and arms are stylised leaves and grapes: in John’s Gospel Jesus says, I am the Vine, make your home in me as I make mine in you. The wine pressed from the fruit of the Cross brings relief from our spiritual thirst and joy to our hearts. Take up your Cross daily and follow me – to the Crucifixion, yes, in smaller and bigger ways each day, but to the risen life each day as well, even before we die and go to meet the Good Shepherd.

Finally, at the feet of Jesus we see a chalice – for the cup at every Eucharist is indeed the Holy Grail, the cup of the Last Supper – and above the cup, marked with a Cross and radiant in gold, is a round of white unleavened bread; the ‘forms of bread and wine’ that make present in our day all that this Crucifix sets out to tell us.

If, like me, silence does not always come easily to your heart in church or in prayer, maybe sitting with this image can help direct your thoughts to the eternal reality which it professes. The whole story of Jesus is symbolised here from his birth to Mary, up to John running to the empty tomb and seeing and believing – and witnessing to what he believed. May we be ever more faithful witnesses to what we believe.

MMB

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13 April: Maundy Thursday.

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This evening we have the Eucharist; the Maundy or Mandatum, the servant-king washing the disciples’ feet; and we have Christ going out to the garden and his death. This is a Feast that should remind us of the Church’s mission, to love.

I like this reflection, written in wartime by Father Andrew SDC, which reminds us of this truth about the Church which so often is obscured.

The Church is not an organisation managed by men but an organism indwelt by God, and for that reason you should go to Holy Communion on Sundays and great Festivals if you can. Père Huvelin, Baron von Hügel’s confessor, told him to say a decade of the Rosary every day to keep him in the company of ordinary, simple people in the Church. I am sure it is your duty to go as regularly as you can to Holy Communion to keep yourself in the Body of Christ.

Bad as the world is, ‘God so loved it that he gave’ his blessed Son for it.

Bad as the Church is, ‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.’

Bad as I am, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me.’

Those are the three loves of God: the world, the Church, the individual.

God bless and keep you in His tender love.

The  Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge shows Christ the Vine – an image he used on this night (John 15:1-8), bearing fruit, giving us the Eucharist, and reigning now he is lifted up. The Mass is a special celebration in Zambia.

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April 8, Station V: Stay with Us!

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…He walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us…’ [28-32]

We can’t help wishing that Luke would have told us something of what the stranger said as he opened the scriptures to them, but he doesn’t. Instead he has him walking ahead, as if to go on, and the disciples begging him to stay. And that really takes us to the heart of what this Gospel is about. The disciples don’t want the conversation to end, while we may feel we are still waiting for it to begin: and the point being made by Luke is that it is not ‘a conversation’ so much as a process that continues, only in a way that neither they nor we could have expected.

‘So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him…’ The conversation continues now not in words but in action. Up until this moment they have been listening to a stranger who has slowly been opening their understanding, and stirring their memories. But it is only when he does something when they are at table with him—he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them—that their eyes are suddenly opened and they recognise him in what he has just done. His presence is revealed, and will always be revealed, in the breaking of the bread, in the celebration of Eucharist.

And significantly, no sooner do they recognise him than he ‘dis-appears’: they no longer see him but they know he is present with them. They had begun to sense his presence while they listened to his Word [Were not our hearts burning within us…?], and now in the action of breaking and sharing bread it dawns on them: he is here, This is my body…Do this…

And just as suddenly as they realise this he ‘dis-appears’, at the very moment when they do see and fully grasp what has happened. And yet they are not in the least disturbed when they can no longer see him, because they now know that though he died he is alive in a new way, and they also have been brought back to life, this new life: seeing with new eyes, and driven by a new energy. And they waste no time: That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.

What is this like for us today?

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Perhaps there are two lessons—or really one lesson in two stages—that we can learn from this ‘Station’ as we try to connect it with our own experience.

  • Our first need is often to talk and listen to one another, read, discuss, argue…but in the end we want to move to action: what are we going to do? And that could be what would make us press the stranger to stay with us…talk to us a bit more, help us not just to understand but to see a way forward.
  • The stranger does stay, but what he now does is to bring words and action together in a powerful symbolic act—the breaking of the bread—which they recognised, and immediately also recognised him. But there is a crucial difference: they now grasp the meaning of the action and recognise in the breaking of the bread the acting out—or better, the living out—of the Word he had been explaining to them: This is my body, this is what I have done and now do again here for you and with you, so that you may continue to do the same, take this bread/my body and do/live for others as I do for you.

JMcC.

The Rood Screen at Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, explicitly links the Cross and the Eucharist. MMB.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravaggio#/media/File:Caravaggio_-_Cena_in_Emmaus.jpg

 

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24 March: Bread and the Word.

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Christ himself told us that he is “the bread of life”, and scripture attests he is the Word who was with God, and who was God. 

These two claims that are the basis of our faith are statements woven throughout scripture and our theological beliefs.  They echo from Advent, when God’s salvation plan for His people is foretold by the prophets with the promise that the Messiah would come from the City of David, and continue through the earthly ministry of Christ from his birth, death, and resurrection.

Christ’s existence as the bread of life and the Word come together, in identical words, twice in scripture.  First in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy (8:3) : “…man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”, which the Evangelists Matthew (4:4) and Luke (4:4) both tell us Jesus quotes, verbatim, to his tempter after 40 days of fasting in the Judean wilderness.

More significantly, the two synonymic terms for Christ come together in the Holy Eucharist.  In the Blessed Sacrament, proclaimed by Blessed Pope Paul VI and the Council Fathers in Lumen Gentium 11 as “the source and summit of our faith” where through the mystery of transubstantiation, bread becomes the body of Christ, and the faithful receive the Word as this life giving bread.

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Indeed, prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Christ in the City of David.  Even more amazingly, the Hebrew name of that town where Jesus was born, bêt-leḥem, means House of Bread!

DW.

The Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge. Note at the feet of Christ the host and chalice of the Eucharist. There are many scripture references in this portrayal, even though it does not show a ‘realistic’ crucifixion in earthly terms. This could be a meditation on Hebrews: notice the pallium on the Lord’s shoulders: a sign that he is the Lamb as well as the Good Shepherd; he is also priest and King … look on, and see more.

A different festive bread to that of Passover, the traditional English harvest loaf expresses thanks for the crops safely gathered in, and the offering of ourselves and all that sustains us in God’s earth. 

MMB.

 

 

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22 March, Tuesday of Holy Week: The Hands of the Wicked.

 

 

mercylogoIn the first of today’s readings Isaiah (49:1-6) awakens to the realisation that, despite his doubts, his life has always rested secure in God’s plan. Although there are times when nothing makes sense and all seems futile, the reality is that God is all in all: the ground of all being; the beginning, middle and end of all that is. And so Psalm 70 reminds us to seek our refuge in the Lord and ask that he free us from the hand of the wicked.

Yet in the gospel (John 13:21-33,36-38) we find Jesus falling into the hands of the wicked. Or so it would seem. But again appearances deceive: the reality is that he does not fall into their hands, but rather submits to them, and in doing so overcomes wickedness. As Julian of Norwich saw (in the words of Denys Turner),

Love wages no wars at all, not even against sin, for love is absolute vulnerability. Love knows no other strategy than that vulnerability, [yet] it is precisely in that victory of sin over love that sin is defeated. In its victory over love, sin defeats itself. Sin’s failure to engage perfect love in a contest on sin’s terms of violence and power is sin’s defeat.

And so it is that what seems to be sin’s greatest victory is in fact its final defeat. On the Cross the Son of Man is glorified, and in him God is glorified. The Cross affirms that God is all in all.

MLT.

Strasbourg Cathedral: Jesus in the hands of the wicked; Our Lady Immaculate and the English Martyrs, the Triumph of the Cross. (MMB)

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Interruption: Something to listen to – on line

Doctor Rowan Williams, formerly of this city, is giving a series of lectures at Cambridge on Christ and the Logic of Creation.  You can hear these by following this link:

http://sms.cam.ac.uk/collection/2154437

WT.

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