Tag Archives: City of God

14 November, Little Flowers XCIX: Turn me towards the city

We are now reading of Francis’s last days, after his epic journey to Assisi by donkey. The donkey and its master had gone back home and Francis could not have made his way down the hill from the bishop’s palace with its armed guards, to Santa Maria degli Angeli so the brothers carried him. It would have been a long way to carry him in their arms as the book tells us they did.

Then the friars took him up in their arms and so carried him; and many of the citizens accompanied them. And, coming to a hospice, which was by the way, Saint Francis said unto those who carried him: “Set me down on the ground, and turn me toward the city”. And, when he was set with his face toward Assisi, he blessed the city with many blessings, saying: “Blessed be thou of God, O holy city, for through thee many souls shall be saved, and in thee shall dwell many servants of God, and from thee many shall be chosen unto the Kingdom of Life Eternal”. And, when he had said these words, he caused them to carry him on to Santa Maria degli Angeli. 

And, when they arrived at Santa Maria degli Angeli, they bore him to the infirmary and there laid him down to rest.

The photograph is not Assisi, of course, but the city of London, seen from Greenwich Park. If you know where to look on the left hand horizon you can make out Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It’s hard to imagine pronouncing a blessing like Francis’s over the capital of Mammon, but nevertheless, we can learn from Francis, for the Spirit blows where she will. So perhaps we should bless our home town whenever we enter it, walking down the hill, stepping off the train, sitting in a traffic jam.

Blessed be thou of God, O holy city!

And remembering Francis’s early escapades, let us build the Church and build the city of God.

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28 August: Augustine on respect for the bodies of the dead, II.

This early XIX Century angel watched over a grave in Wales which was accidentally broken during works to the Churchyard. It serves as an introduction to this extract from the City of God by the Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine. He is writing as the Roman Empire is collapsing across Europe and the Mediterranean, including his native North Africa. There is much violence and bodies of the dead lie unburied, much to the distress of his people. But God can and will restore and reunite soul and body, however broken, scattered and desecrated the latter may have been.

Before turning to Augustine, let’s pray for all those buried in Saint Tydfil’s churchyard, and all buried without a marker, even without a mourner. Augustine begins his reflection with the story of Dives and Lazarus from Luke 16.

His crowd of domestics furnished the purple-clad Dives with a funeral gorgeous in the eye of man; but in the sight of God that was a more sumptuous funeral which the ulcerous pauper received at the hands of the angels, who did not carry him out to a marble tomb, but bore him aloft to Abraham’s bosom.

The men against whom I have undertaken to defend the city of God laugh at all this. But even their own philosophers have despised a careful burial; and often whole armies have fought and fallen for their earthly country without caring to inquire whether they would be left exposed on the field of battle, or become the food of wild beasts. Of this noble disregard of entombment poetry has well said: “He who has no tomb has the sky for his vault.” How much less ought they to insult over the unburied bodies of Christians, to whom it has been promised that the flesh itself shall be restored, and the body formed anew, all the members of it being gathered not only from the earth, but from the most secret recesses of any other of the elements in which the dead bodies of men have lain hid!

From “City of God: 1:12 by Saint Augustine, via Kindle.

Strasbourg Cathedral, Christ triumphant rescuing Adam and Eve from Hell.

The artists of Strasbourg Cathedral certainly believed that, ‘He descended into Hell, on the Third Day he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father from whence he shall judge the living and the dead’. Here it is, the harrowing of Hell, and our first parents the first to be rescued, blessed with beautiful, renewed bodies; a powerful envisioning of the threshold of eternal life.

Perhaps we find it harder to imagine that moment than our forebears did, but perhaps we should go past the abstract in thinking about eternity. There is still room in this brave new world for Christ to lead Adam by the hand, physically; and for Adam to half turn to his wife, to hold her hand, and feel her physical arm encircling his back. They are just as human, and more so, than when they first lived upon earth. And so will we be transformed.

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29 August: On the seventh day.

Today we share a passage from Saint Augustine of Hippo’s City of God, 11.8. It is Saint Augustine’s feast day, and it is holiday time, so when better to ask,

What we are to understand of God’s resting on the seventh day, after the six days’ work?

Augustine’s answer to this question may surprise us, coming from a man of the 4th and 5th Centuries. God does not need to rest from toil, as we humans do, for he created all things by his Word – he spake and it was done. So God’s rest is the rest he created for us – and other parts of his creation – and it is part of his plan of creation, even before the Fall. As Augustine says in The Confessions:

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

When it is said that God rested on the seventh day from all His works, and hallowed it, we are not to conceive of it in a childish fashion, as if work were a toil to God, who “spake and it was done,”—spake by the spiritual and eternal, not audible and transitory word. But God’s rest signifies the rest of those who rest in God, as the joy of a house means the joy of those in the house who rejoice, though not the house, but something else, causes the joy.

How much more intelligible is such phraseology, then, if the house itself, by its own beauty, makes the inhabitants joyful! For in this case we not only call it joyful by that figure of speech in which the thing containing is used for the thing contained (as when we say, “The theatres applaud,” “The meadows low,” meaning that the men in the one applaud, and the oxen in the other low), but also by that figure in which the cause is spoken of as if it were the effect, as when a letter is said to be joyful, because it makes its readers so. Most appropriately, therefore, the sacred narrative states that God rested, meaning thereby that those rest who are in Him, and whom He makes to rest.

And this the prophetic narrative promises also to the men to whom it speaks, and for whom it was written, that they themselves, after those good works which God does in and by them, if they have managed by faith to get near to God in this life, shall enjoy in Him eternal rest. This was prefigured to the ancient people of God by the rest enjoined in their sabbath law.

But rest is not idleness: it comes after ‘those good works which God does in and by them’. As we read recently, Thomas Traherne reminds us that, ‘The soul is made for action, and cannot rest till it be employed.’

Let’s pray for the grace to get on with our task in life, and to observe a Sabbath for our soul’s sake, however and whenever circumstances allow.

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20 May: A Pentecost.

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A Pentecost
After Emily Dickinson

Your Deeds, dear Sir, no one can map
With Arithmetic rule –
Yet Dogmatists may call me Quack
For claiming – like a Fool –

To have beheld the Infinite
Whose Longitudes sublime
Marked out one day the Laundromat
That rid my clothes of grime –

Yet – truly – all who washed that day
Were Radiant – were One –
The sweetest of all Songs we sang –
Even as dryers spun –

And Glory fringed each sock and blouse –
I folded, Glory-dazed –
I walked my Glory home – I was
Half stupefied – joy-crazed –

For though the Distance was not great –
Only a mile I trod –
For – Fools – it circumnavigates
The Latitudes of God.

SJC

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24 June: Dipped in Grey.

starburst-sjc

 

I do not

wish to write

poems dipped in Grey

that everyone

seems so wild about

today as if Grey

makes them weigh

more be more

original

have more truth

 

what about

original light?

Light is true.

So let there BE

light.  Let it pour and

let there be

more and more

 

 

lashings of it

splashing everywhere

boat-loads bath-tub loads

bus-loads of original light

slapping up the sides

sloshing over

slopping over

 

waves of it

 

flooding

city streets

mountain meadows

washing

dirty clothes

my face

streaming off

factory walls

coursing down

ditches

running off

my nose

my fingers

 

this sentiment

will not make me

popular with

other poets.

but am I

writing

for them

or for

You

SJC.

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July 16: Light VII: And they shall see his face.

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And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.            Revelation 22:1-5.

At the end of the Bible comes John’s vision of the City of God – cue all those resounding phrases in ‘Immortal, invisible’. But wouldn’t you want to be in a back row, like a good Catholic? Heaven sounds overwhelming, as John describes it: all those sonorous attributes! And won’t you miss a good night’s sleep?

But wait, there is room for us: John says that God’s  servants … shall reign for ever and ever, even while serving him. We won’t be at a loose end, and we won’t need Peter Smith’s candles to stand in for us, as the Lord God will give us light, and we shall see his face. This, I’m sure will not be a passive experience:

In this world and time, Tito the dog actively uses nose and tongue to ‘see’ with when he comes to visit. Watching and learning from dogs and young children, we can look for God’s reflections all around us and and count our blessings. Therese says, ‘Jesus  multiplied his graces in his little flower – he who cried out during his mortal life “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”’ (Luke 10: 21)

Let’s pray: ‘O help us to see ’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.’

Picture, Public Domain: Apsis mosaic, Santa Pudenziana, Rome photo Sixtus enhanced TTaylor.jpg

 

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