Tag Archives: Christ King

30 December: Father Andrew at Christmas VII. Problems at the Manger

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Photo by CD

We face the same Problems at the Manger as Father Andrew pointed out eighty years ago.

O mighty God, O baby King,
Thyself must teach what welcoming
Thy children, old and young, should bring,
How each should make his offering.

For here are little boys and girls,
With tidy clothes and ordered curls;
A little Scout his flag unfurls,
His mother kneels in lace and pearls.

And here are faces pinched and white,
And men who walked about all night;
A soldier who has lost his sight,
A boy whose sums will not come right.

The young, the middle-aged, the old
Are gathered here, some gay with gold,
Some ragged creatures, starved and cold –
The fat and lean are in Thy fold.

And though our hearts at Christmas glow
With sense of shame that things are so,
Yet how to get the world to go
In Christian ways we do not know.

There’s nothing wrong in tidy boys,
It’s nice to give expensive toys,
It’s natural to make a noise,
And lovely things are perfect joys –

Yet still we kneel before Thy straw
In penitence and puzzling awe –
Show us our system’s vital flaw,
And that strong truth the Wise Men saw.

Love, Thou must teach us, every one,
To toil until Thy will be done;
So never in this world again
Shall child be housed in cattle pen.

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December 3, Jacopone da Todi 7: A Host of Pardons


Jacopone’s exhilarating phrases about his great attraction to the tremendous graciousness of God are tied in with other, simpler phrases about how humbly he waits to experience the bubbling spring of God’s forgiveness. This alone can free him from punishment he has had to undergo, for being so outspoken on behalf of Christ.

“Almost paralysed, I lie at the pool near Solomon’s Portico;

The waters have been moved with a host of pardons.,

And now the season has drawn to a close. When shall I be told

That I should rise, take my bed and go home?”                  (Laud/Letter 52)

(John 5:10)

“Why did you leave the golden throne resplendent with gems,

Why did you put aside the dazzling crown?…

Were these the actions of someone drunk, or out of his senses?

I know that all knowledge and power were yours

Even when still a child; how could so much be contained

In such a tiny frame, made of common clay?

What can a creature offer you, O Highest Goodness,

In exchange for your gift of yourself?

Your love, I think, brought you no gain.

Does gold need tin for its splendour to be seen?

For love of man you seem to have gone mad!

Myself and all my riches,

The treasure I brought with me when I exchanged

The glorious life of heaven for a cruel death.”                     (Laud  65)


This quietly bubbling fountain in a slab of stone is inside the Portiuncula Hermitage retreat centre at Clay Cross, Derbyshire. It is run by the Minoress Franciscan Sisters. Follow the link to learn more.


Chris D.

October 2016.


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Wednesday 22nd June: I will search for the lost



Ezekiel 34:16 ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays’

Today’s Feast, commemorating the martyrdom of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, causes us to think of a time when kings had almost unlimited power and would let nothing and no one stand in the way of what they wanted.

mercylogoThe Gospel presents us with a different view of a king, a king who called himself the ‘Good Shepherd’, whom he spoke of as putting himself in danger and enduring hunger, cold, etc. to hunt for and bring back – without chastising them – his lost sheep, by whom he meant his subjects.  Jesus was a King who cared about his subjects and their wellbeing, which he put before his own comfort.

With God in charge, we can rest secure – as the Psalmist said: ‘I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.’ (Psalm 3)

It is the responsibility of a king to show integrity, and of a human being to be true to the bond of friendship.  Christ the King is the model of human integrity, and even goes so far as to call us his friends.  Although we have sinned, gone astray, sought happiness elsewhere, God never stops seeking us, longing to show us His great mercy.  Following His example, may we have the grace to extend mercy and friendship to our fellow men and women, as God has shown mercy to us.



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Shepherd’s Tale


A 21st Century Yorkshire Shepherd – with collie and quad bike – better clad but still out in the rain.

You wouldn’t have cared for the night-shift, I can tell you,

not at the year’s end,

with the wind

slashing your face and numbing your aching mind;

and the snow; the bitter reality of it

seeping through the traditional gear,

which was, to say the least, inadequate.

We had it to do, but I think you’d

back us up when we say we would have preferred

to stay at home, in bed with our warm wives,

and a good long sleep in front of us –

for choice.

You realise, I’m sure, that was before,

grumbling all together

in a huddle like the sheep;

before the instant of terror and the withering fear,

the shrapnel-shock, the streams of shell-light.

And when we dared to open our eyes to the skies’ blinding,

suddenly shattered out of our found senses

exploded into another world,

hurled on our ears the singing, singing heavens.

We soon moved off though some cynics were ready

to think we’d misunderstood.

But I knew when they said manger that’s what they meant.


Gathering the flock, near Embrun, France.

We went down into the town.

The party-goers coming home late thought we’d gone mad;

perhaps we had, but by then, there wasn’t a man

would have turned back.

You’ll be wondering how we felt when we knelt there

so near the baby and that young Mary?

Hard for a poor chap like me to express it really.

The light and the singing were gone;

just a smelly stable and the animals munching away.

A bit of an anti-climax in a way.

But you see we knew who it was there, sharing his bed

with the beasts, and we appreciated

our poverty after that;

after God had spoken his own Word

in our language

uncouth and poor. 


A Shepherd’s Tale seems fitting on the day we remember the Holy and Blissful Martyr, Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, who laid down his life for his sheep on this evening in 1170 at Canterbury Cathedral.



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Advent Light


Like everything else, Christmas carols have colours. O Little Town of Bethlehem is the colour of the world on a chill hazy morning when the sun is just above the horizon and the skies are pink and white: a palette of the softest grey blues, greens, the barest hint of rose red, palest gold. In Once in Royal David’s City, on the other hand, deepest royal blue and a moonless night sky enfold the nativity within their protective darkness and unfold to reveal Christ in Glory surrounded by white-robed saints.


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Christ the King IV

strasbgcrownthorns (405x409)

Here is another scene from Strasbourg Cathedral. Jesus is crowned with Thorns, but loses none of his human dignity: he accepts his  wreath of pain as if it were a crown of gold.

I remember one time at Saint Thomas’ Church in Canterbury when the children were following the Stations of the Cross. We would bring out a crown of real thorns which they touched with great care. When we came to the station where Jesus was taken down from the Cross we visited the pieta at the back of church, and on this day the children gathered close, stroking the statue of Jesus and Mary.

That image spoke to the children directly; let this one speak to us.

The Son of Man is suffering with the dignity of a Son of God. He cannot take away all our pain, but he can show us how and when we should accept it.

Dare we say with Paul:

I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.

Colossians 1:24

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Christ the King III

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This scene shows the start of Holy Week, it is Palm Sunday, when Jesus was acclaimed as King by the people of Jerusalem.

Even the donkey is excited: look at his ears, look at his eyes! He is taking it all in. This is his hour:

One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

G.K.Chesterton, The Donkey.

This was not just a moment of irrelevance in the Holy Week story, but a moment of truth.

Enjoy the hour, enjoy the moment, and like Mary, treasure all these things in your heart.

Although we know what the next chapter of this story brings, treasure this hour and ponder on it.

Although you do not know what the next chapter of your own story may bring, treasure this hour in your heart and ponder on it.

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Christ the King II

Christ the King in Holy Week and Easter, Strasbourg Cathedral.

Christ the King in Holy Week and Easter, Strasbourg Cathedral.

The Tympanum above the West Front of Strasbourg Cathedral depicts key events of Holy Week and Easter in carvings clustered around Christ Crucified Risen. These were first carved when people knew what to expect of kings – taxes, of course; maybe security but maybe also family breakup with men forced to go to war and those left at home suffering from invading armies, as well as losing loved ones and breadwinners. People knew their place, and for most this was near the bottom of the heap.

The artists of these works saw Jesus as quite another kind of king. His death on a criminal’s cross and his resurrection are the centre round which the whole picture moves. In the next few days we will look at the Kingship of Christ through some of the scenes in this great work; for today, look and see how the death and resurrection of Jesus are at the centre of the artists’ vision, leading us up to the Ascension and our own entry, God willing, into life everlasting.

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Christ the King I

RoodEngMartyrsCamb (495x700)

Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then?

Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king.

For this was I born,

and for this came I into the world;

that I should give testimony to the truth.

Every one that is of the truth,

heareth my voice.                                                                                                           John 18:33-37

Jesus does not tell Pilate that he has come to save the world. He comes as a witness to the truth.

And if we are ‘of the truth’ we will hear his voice.

That includes ‘Every one that is of the truth’, surely also those who pursue truth in other ways: scientists, poets, lovers, giving their lives to their passion for research, for the sound of the right words, for the lover’s good.

John says elsewhere:  

In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.                                                                                                          1 John 3:16.

We need not pursue actual martyrdom, as the young Teresa resolved to do (see post ‘Like Little Children’, October 15th 2015). As Teresa discovered, there are other ways to lay down our lives; Rowan Williams reminds us that ‘Christ lived a lifelong passion’. Is that a description of my life?


Rood Screen, Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge. MMB.

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Saints at Play II

alfWe count David as the human source of Christ’s Kingship. That sounds solemn. Even to be King of a scrap of a Kingdom – as Israel was then, in terms of population – is a heavy responsibility. Even to be father or mother of a family is a heavy responsibility, but we find time to play with our children  and discover that the burden can be light as well.

David danced in front of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6) as it was processed into Jerusalem. Saul’s daughter Michal, watching from the window, was disgusted with his performance.

It is too easy to despise play, but I am convinced that creation is God at play. There was no need for any of it, it is all gift: gift from God to himself, gift from God to each one of his creatures. And so we are called to give to each other, and playing is one sure way of giving our talents to one another, of giving time to one another, and indeed of helping each other to discover the talents we have been given.

And perhaps the dogs who eat on the floor beneath our tables can also teach us something about playing; not just throwing sticks, but also throwing ourselves into our relationships with other people – and with God.

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