Sometimes a candle can speak where words cannot.
As here in Canterbury Cathedral, on a cake, or at a memorial site.
Sometimes a candle can speak where words cannot.
As here in Canterbury Cathedral, on a cake, or at a memorial site.
Take far away each hideous dream,
Things in the night that monstrous seem …
Two lines from the compline hymn came to mind when I read about the Christmas TV Ad which shows a boy who has a monster under his bed. Not a lot to do with the real meaning of Christmas, I hear you say.
This monster above has lived in the crypt, or basement of Canterbury Cathedral for many hundreds of years, along with a few more of different kinds, not unlike the imaginary beasts in the margins of ancient manuscripts. This fellow is within sight of Mother Concordia of Minster’s Mary and Child.
Ancient writers imagined the infant Jesus creating living creatures from the mud of the ground. I can imagine him playing with toy monsters and dinosaurs as so many children do today. After all, there were plenty of monsters to be seen among the deities of ancient Egypt where he grew up!
Can we not play, and play fairly, in the world created for us and be grateful? Let’s play fairly by some of our less favoured sisters and brothers this Christmas – we all know several ways of helping. Let’s not be selfish monsters!
We can travel, indeed we have travelled, to places of pilgrimage within the United Kingdom and beyond. I won’t say East, West, home’s best. I would return to Aberdaron, St Maurice, Rome, and many places that I love, yet we have our Cathedral which has many corners that sometimes catch the eye. And just a few minutes’ walk from home.
This Cross is on the altar in the dark Saint Nicholas’ Chapel – his feast is today, December 6th.
Patron of children, the original and best Father Christmas; he makes his annual procession through Canterbury each Advent, allowing frazzled shoppers the chance to make their day a pilgrimage.
Let’s celebrate his generous and imaginative care of his flock, but remember that he drew his inspiration from the one whose Cross is represented here.
Saint Nicholas, pray for children.
Saint Nicholas. pray for parents and grandparents, who have to improvise all the time. May we share your wise approach to child care!
And Let’s pray for a former priest at St Thomas’ Canterbury, Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary in Westminster.
There are signs of hope. Here is Francis, Bishop of Rome, receiving a blessing from Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury. No charade, surely? The Pope would not bring about scandal by seeking a blessing from a heretic schismatic. When Bishop Nicholas Hudson joined Bishop Trevor Willmott in blessing the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral, what were we to make of the implied recognition of value in Anglican orders?
The scandal is not that these isolated events happen, but that we lack the courage of our convictions, so they remain isolated. Forty years ago I was assured that, juridically, Anglican orders were all valid since Old Catholic bishops had taken part in enough ordinations to ensure recognition of Anglican Apostolic Succession.
In another church, a good distance from Canterbury, a Catholic bishop was ordained recently, with his friend, co-worker and Anglican bishop, robed on the sanctuary. It was good to see him there, but he was not invited to join the Catholic bishops by laying hands on the ordinand.
And the announcement that day deterring non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist? If a bishop being ordained is not one of those special occasions when Eucharistic hospitality is to be encouraged, I’m not clear when it may be grudgingly permitted. Put out into the deep!
Or even ‘H is for Home’. This city has become home as nowhere else in my life, now I’ve spent more than half my days here. Here are the streets where my students have lived, the schools, community centres, libraries and halls where I’ve taught them anything from the basics of maths and English to art, cookery or even simple motor mechanics. Here is the court where I’ve supported students, the chip shop where more than one has greeted me, years after our lessons ceased …
… but here too, closer to my heart, is a family home of thirty years, infused with memories: three generations of Turnstones have made their mark – young Abel too! He had best watch out, though granddad heard about it when felt pen strayed onto the table surface! Remember too that the previous generation, our children’s grandparents were frequent visitors and remain part of the fabric of their growing up in this place.
Canterbury is special, even if the city centre is increasingly given over to big business rather than small, let alone to worship. Even the signposts all through the town are in the corporate style of the Whitefriars’ shopping centre. And despite the continuous noise of traffic, and the fumes that poison the air, it has been a good place to raise a family. There is still green space. And we do have access to the cathedral and the deep silence of centuries of prayer.
We may whinge about the busloads of continental teenagers spilling out of the pound shops, but we’ll miss them when they stop coming. Regimented private schools may be well-behaved, but lack their vitality.
We’ll also miss the Franciscans when they close the Study Centre and leave Greyfriars chapel this summer, but this is home, its churches, shops, level crossings and traffic queues, old friends and acquaintances, and corners unvisited except when friends stop by. I guess we’re here while the next generation are based hereabouts; this is home.
I spend a fair bit of time with teenage boys, and was one myself. Let me return to those lads staring at the ceiling. Part of the answer to their apparent detachment was that they – and the girls – should have been at the door, greeting people, handing out newsletters and hymn books, finding seats for visitors, pointing out the toilets/washrooms. Yes, some of them would feel awkward doing that, but if you are part of the team you are part of the community. Welcoming could be a ministry they undertake as part of the confirmation programme.
Even when no-one is there but the One in the Tabernacle, a Church should feel like a place of welcome. I sometimes feel a little over-welcomed at Canterbury Cathedral when I just want to dive into the dark, quiet crypt for ten minutes. There is a certain nervous zeal amongst the welcomers when I enter wearing my day-glow builder’s jacket for cycling. But no question of turning me away because I look like a manual worker.
For good reasons the church porch may be the only space open outside service times. Does it speak of the life of the parish? Can the visitor discover what’s going on and who is responsible for different activities? If I’m in town to visit my relative in hospital, can I see the contact details for the chaplains? Is there a written introduction to the church and parish? In more than one language? Can a wheelchair user see the sanctuary and tabernacle if the main church is locked?
This is all part of ‘do these Christians love one another?’ It is the body language of the parish, absorbed before the newcomer has set foot in the church or joined in Mass.
They say body language conveys more than the spoken word, but one Mass when one of my children was really vocal, an old lady looked daggers at us, or so we thought, till she came over after Mass and made a real fuss of her.
She was blessing our marriage and our child.
A visitor to our parish once complained that he could not pray seated near us when one of the children was too enthusiastic for his liking. He could have sat elsewhere. Such attitudes drive people away; there was the parish priest at a seaside town who told us he expected young children (ours would have been two and four years old) to stay in the porch. We stayed in church, they were quiet, and he complimented us afterwards – but we would not have wanted to worship there regularly.
For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.
Fr Daniel Weatherley of St Thomas’ Church in Canterbury continues our reflections on the Will with his thoughts on Thomas’s choice to follow his conscience and God’s will.
It would be easy to look at the martyrdom of St. Thomas in a rather narrow and triumphalist way as the authority of the Church ultimately winning over the State.
Thomas refused to allow divine law to succumb to the earthly, giving his life in its cause…yet, after his murder, the King repented – so all is settled nicely: Thomas is a martyr and the King has admitted his fault and made his peace. End of the story…?
Far from it. Thomas’ self-sacrifice teaches us something more than just the authority of one institution over another. It is certainly true that the divine law can never be dictated to by an earthly one. Indeed, the Gospel must be permitted to critique society: so that earthly matters might be enlightened by the divine.
But Thomas’ supreme testimony is to the primacy of conscience.
In accepting and following the voice of his conscience, fed by divine law and strengthened through a life of piety and devotion, Thomas exercised the true freedom of one whose house is built upon rock, not sand. Like another Thomas, four centuries later, the human pain of becoming an enemy of one who was a close friend did not weaken his resolve to serve God above all others. And in choosing the ‘narrow way’ of integrity and obedience he won for God countless souls who were to flock on pilgrimage to the site where he laid down his life.
We today will do the greatest honour to Thomas (and give glory to God) by doing all we can to feed, nurture and sharpen our consciences by immersion in the Word of God, the teachings of Holy Mother Church and the Holy Sacraments, with a humble confidence that Jesus Christ will transform us and, through us, the world around us.
Seven centuries after Thomas’ martyrdom Cardinal Newman raised his glass to the Pope – but to conscience first. There is a tendency for us to see conscience as ‘choosing what I prefer to do’ rather than the God-given faculty which enables me to exercise my freedom in choosing what would most please Him, and bring about the highest good, even though it may well cause me more suffering in the short term.
As I left the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral today, I was drawn into the treasury room. Often there is one precious, ancient object to gaze upon. Today it was something old, something new.
The Church of the Incarnation in Dallas has commissioned from the Canterbury Cathedral glaziers, new windows taken from old – eight hundred years old – windows in Canterbury. A selection is now on display including this panel of the sacrifice of Isaac, the angel risking his hand and wing to withstand the blow Abraham is about to deliver.
The new windows, made using mediaeval techniques, are vibrant and unmarked by the centuries of weather and pollution that have damaged the originals. Unlike the old monks of Canterbury, the ministers at Dallas will be able to bring every detail of the windows to the scrutiny of viewers using modern IT. The monks would have embraced IT, of course, as an aid to spreading the Good News – as Agnellus Mirror does in our own small way.
I shall return more than once before the windows are parcelled up and dispatched to Texas: they are on display here until 22 February, closing at 16.00 each day.
Read and watch more at these links:
May I share a notice from our friends at the Canterbury Gregorian Music Society. You’d be made most welcome!
Saturday 25th February 2017 10-1
Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
(small audio-visual room)
A morning workshop of talks and chant around gothic cathedrals
Jeffrey Miller holds research and teaching posts at the University of Cambridge and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. His principal interests are in Gothic Architecture in Europe, including its materialization and meaning in medieval communities. Our morning will consist of two talks and two singing sessions. The talks will look at how mediaeval architects related their vision of a cathedral to passages in the Bible referring to the Temple of Jerusalem. How were the decorations and adornments conceived and realized? Cathedrals were important places for the civic and spiritual life of cities. How did communities decide where these buildings should be and how they should relate to the layout of their cities? We might also have a sneak preview of the end of the world. Questions such as these will be used to frame the two talks by our guest. In between we will discuss and sing some chant for the consecration of churches (and the end of the world?).
Free for members £5 for non-members
includes hand-outs, music and light refreshments
Further information from: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nana wearing her official ring at a family wedding.
The day Fr Daniel’s reflection on relics arrived there was a family discussion on jewellery, in particular my mother-in-law’s bequest to her grandchildren. One daughter had a diamond-set ring, but fiancé was unhappy about using one that had come down through her side of the family.
Another daughter had received a ring from her own fiancé at a very public occasion – no other ring would do for him. Third daughter has her grandmother’s engagement ring but no-one to present it to her so far.
My wife wears my grandmother’s spare wedding band; Nana had lost it and only found it after getting a new one. My ring is made from my father’s broken gold watch. ‘Don’t bury it with me, pass it on and tell the story,’ I said. We all agreed, but my wife, who works in the hospice, said that many want to be buried with their wedding rings. Good reasons can be given for both points of view. I like the relic of my father that goes everywhere with me in this life. I’m sure we’ll be together in the next, by which time Abel may be wearing it.
One interesting set of relics in Canterbury Cathedral were buried with Archbishop Hubert , who served in the reigns of Richard I and John, and dug up in 1890: his chalice and paten and his crozier and ring. Hubert was a crusading archbishop, who is said to have met and talked with Saladin. Sometimes his relics are put to use at the Cathedral, but they can often be seen in the treasury displays.
Our family relics invite us to pray for each other, living and dead, and those who may wear these trinkets after we are gone. Hubert’s invite us to pray for him, but also for peace in the Middle East.