More Eastertide reflections from Thomas Traherne, Who makes the bold claim, ‘he was the son of God as you are’, but he was heir of the whole world’, meaning the whole of creation. As with all of Traherne, the passage repays slow, repeated reading.
The Cross of Christ is the Jacob’s ladder by which we ascend into the highest heavens.
There we see joyful Patriarchs, expecting Saints, Prophets ministering, Apostles publishing, and Doctors teaching, all Nations concentering, and Angels praising. That Cross is a tree set on fire with invisible flame, that Illuminateth all the world. The flame is Love: the Love in His bosom who died on it. In the light of which we see how to possess all the things in Heaven and Earth after His similitude. For He that suffered on it was the Son of God as you are: tho’ He seemed only a mortal man. He had acquaintance and relations as you have, but He was a lover of Men and Angels. Was he not the Son of God; and Heir of the whole world?
To this poor, bleeding, naked Man did all the corn and wine, and oil, and gold and silver in the world minister in an invisible manner, even as He was exposed lying and dying upon the Cross.
I am the wood
On which you chose to die.
I am the beam you carried on your shoulder,
Pulling at your torn and scourged flesh.
I am the rest on which they laid your hands,
You held me close,
As close as nails could hold.
You drew my pain
To make it yours.
And then they lifted you
And you forgave me.
Saint Francis, we know, received the marks of Christ’s passion in his own flesh; here he contemplates the instruments of the Passion. Sheila has a Franciscan insight here; the Cross itself feels the pain of a broken world. Perhaps we, too, should be seeking forgiveness for the wrong we are unwillingly complicit in committing against God and his Creation.
Two poems from American poets that harmonise with this one were published here a couple of years ago. Start with Joyce Kilmer’s prayer of a soldier in France and follow the arrow to the next post by Christina Chase. Happy Easter!
‘Shall I ever,’ he asks on Easter Day, ‘receive the Sacrament with tranquility? Surely the time will come.’
from “Life of Johnson, Volume 2 1765-1776” by James Boswell
Doctor Johnson was staying with his friends the Thrales when he wrote this, well aware of his own sinfulness and the gulf that that could give rise to between himself and God, but also believing that salvation is ours: Christ has Passed-over through death to eternal life and so shall we. Believing does not mean being totally assured in my mind and heart that salvation is mine, and for the melancholic Johnson, all the theology in the world could not enkindle such certainty. Rather it is to accept the promise of salvation, even with a tiny part of myself, and forgive myself for my unbelief. Even a mustard seed faith can leaven the lump that I am; I can receive the Sacrament in fear and trembling, but at the same time, at a deeper level than my doubts, with tranquility.
Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1Corinthians 5:6-8)
I finally found what John the Baptist and Christ were saying to us in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on Reconciliation and Penance. There he says, The term and the very concept of penance are very complex. If we link penance with the metanoia which the synoptics refer to, it means the inmost change of heart, under the influence of the Word of God and in the perspective of the kingdom. But penance also means changing one’s life in harmony with the change of heart and in this sense, doing penance is completed by bringing forth fruits worthy of penance. It is one’s whole being that becomes penitential.
St. John Paul has here recalled to us the true meaning of penance as found in the Scriptures: penance as metanoia. This was the penance rediscovered by Francis in the thirteenth Century. Over the centuries this meaning of penance once again became lost as emphasis was placed more and more on the externals of penance, with the interior meaning being either forgotten or overlooked.
The Church, in one of her Lenten Prefaces, calls Lent this joyful season. These two points do not seem to go together.
Out of interest I went to the dictionary to see what it would tell me, and there I found that penance is sorrow for sin, evinced by acts of self-mortification. Is that all we mean by penance, repentance?
And the Lord himself led me among them [the lepers] and I had mercy upon them.
Here God has enabled Francis to accept the gift of penance offered to him and to put it into practice.
John the Baptist at the beginning of his public ministry preaches repentance. The Gospel ends with Christ commissioning his apostles to go and preach repentance to the nations. We cannot possibly believe that Christ, as He was leaving us to return to the Father, was telling His apostles to go and make life miserable for us by telling us we had to lead a life of penance – of misery. Of course not. Christ our God is a God of love and compassion and not a God of misery, though that might well have been the impression that we have given to others – the more it hurts the better it is for you: a ‘do-it-yourself’ kit to salvation.
And when I left them, that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I lingered little and left the world.
Francis’ whole value system has been turned upside down.
This Pastoral Letter was sent out by Bishop Ralph Heskett of Hallam, the Catholic diocese of Sheffield, Yorkshire. He sets out the Catholic Church’s views on vaccination and other precautions regarding the corona virus.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am writing to you with renewed hope in these difficult times. A blessing for many during this lockdown is the opportunity to continue to come together for public worship. Government has recognised that public worship is central to our Catholic life and of benefit to the community at large. I know that some of our parishes, for safety sake, have taken the decision to stream Mass only for the present online.
Whether your parish remains open or closed for the moment we must all, however tiresome, continue to follow the rules and play our part in protecting our neighbours and ourselves in the coming months.
Also, to address letters and emails I have received questioning the ethical and moral nature of the vaccines being offered. I know that many of you will be asking yourselves what you will do when you receive your invitation for vaccination, especially with the misinformation that is circulating, not least on social media.
You may not be aware, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Note on the 21st December 2020, in which it clarifies the absence of moral culpability on the part of those receiving the vaccine when there is no choice which vaccine is received. In fact, it says that there is a responsibility on the part of all to seek the vaccination as it is not just a matter of protecting one’s own health, but also the protection of others health as well.
We all know the effects of misinformation. It seeks only to divide and destroy and to hold people in fear. In the end it is the decision of each individual whether to receive the vaccine or not. However, this decision must be made from a well-informed conscience by listening to the voice of the Church and her teachings and not to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the loud voices we hear in social media.
In the darker days over the last few weeks and months I have returned to the words of the prophet Jeremiah as a source of encouragement and hope and for this reason I share with you. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. The Church and her teaching is always for our welfare not evil and offers us hope for the future.
“So that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
Colossians 1:15-20In him all things hold together
Mark 4:30-32As small as a mustard seed
The hymn to Christ in the epistle to the Colossians invites us to sing the praise of God’s salvation, which encompasses the entire universe. Through the crucified and risen Christ, a path of reconciliation has been opened up; creation too is destined for a future of life and peace.
With the eyes of faith, we see that the kingdom of God is a reality that is very close but still hardly visible – like a mustard seed. However, it is growing. Even in the distress of our world the Spirit of the Risen One is at work. He encourages us to become involved – with all people of good will – in tirelessly seeking justice and peace, and ensuring the earth is once again a home for all creatures.
We participate in the work of the Spirit so that creation in all its fullness may continue to praise God. When nature suffers, when human beings are crushed, the Spirit of the risen Christ – far from allowing us to lose heart – invites us to become part of his work of healing. The newness of life that Christ brings, however hidden, is a light of hope for many. It is a wellspring of reconciliation for the whole of creation and contains a joy that comes from beyond ourselves: “so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
“Do you wish to celebrate the newness of life that Christ gives through the Holy Spirit,
and let it live in you, among us, in the church, in the world and in all of creation?”
Second promise made during profession at the Community of Grandchamp.
we thank you for having created and loved us.
We thank you for your presence in us and in creation.
May we learn to look upon the world as you look upon it,
In the hope of this vision, may we be able to work for a world
where justice and peace flourish,
for the glory of your name.
How much does your life declare God’s salvation? What view of God would others have from how you live?
What could your church(es) and community do together to make justice and peace flourish in your locality?
How does your church or group of churches care for God’s creation? What changes, large or small, could you make which would make that care more effective?
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.
As I wrote the date today – it was six months ago today that we were all together celebrating Christmas, singing carols together, and for me one of the highlights of the year is Midnight Mass – something so special with all the candles and that sense of celebration after the waiting and preparation of Advent – and the flowers! For some who are isolating that might have been the last time they saw family and friends; if it hadn’t been our visit to see our son in Manchester in February, the last time he was down was Christmas last year, and certainly when we saw any of our extended family, as I am sure it is for many … and for so many across our country, and around the world, Christmas this year will be without a loved one. I do wonder what it will be like this year – I do hope we are allowed to sing by then!! When we lived in Faversham, there was a board I passed every day that said “Christ is not just for Christmas, but there all year” . This is so true, we have Christ with us as a real and living presence 24/7; Rev Mark spoke about this in Sunday’s sermon (on website), from the passage from Romans 6:1-11, in our baptism we die with Christ to be born again with Christ – a new creation; that is why sometime a font is referred to as a womb (in the Roman liturgy the font is designated the “uterus ecclesiae,” ) – when a baby is born, it emerges from the waters of the womb, and wrapped in a blanket – when the person who has been baptised ‘comes up out of the water’ – or usually water poured over the head these days, though many do’ especially in the Baptist church, have full immersion. In the liturgy today, the baby is wrapped in a white blanket immediately after having water poured, with the words “you have been clothed with Christ. As many who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ”; with an adult I use a white scarf.
God Bless, 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
The Roman font at Milan, where St Ambrose baptised St Augustine and his son Adeodatus by immersion, Easter 387.
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.