Samuel Johnson was like Dylan Thomas at least in his love for words and for writing the best words he could to convey his meaning. The following prayer was composed by him at the time he was finishing his dictionary. A labour indeed!
O GOD, who hast hitherto supported me, enable me to proceed in this labour, and in the whole task of my present state; that when I shall render up, at the last day, an account of the talent committed to me, I may receive pardon, for the sake of JESUS CHRIST. Amen.
Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765 by James Boswell
The saint rose to go on his way but those slugs would not leave him and began to follow the holy man wherever he went. On that same day, Saint Francis had been invited to dine at the house of the bishop. When he arrived there, a large number of slugs followed him into the house. The bishop, that holy pastor, was greatly astonished at this new wonder of nature and looked all about him for a shovel …until the saint asked: “My lord bishop, have you met my sisters?”
After they had been following him for two days, Saint Francis dismissed the slugs with a blessing, saying:
“Go now in peace, my sister slugs. Although you are lowly and despised among creatures, unwelcome in human society, there will always be a place for you in the Lord’s creation.”
At these words, the creatures turned and went on their way.
Not long after this, several slugs became renowned for their holiness. People came to consider the signs of their presence as a blessing and began to tread more carefully upon the earth.
One wet morning, St. Francis entered a garden, sat down on a bird bath and prayed silently. Then, looking up, he saw those creatures in the garden and he called, “My sister slugs, come here to me and listen to a word from God. A group of them immediately made their way towards him and came up to his feet. At this, the saint said, “Sister slugs, I command you to stop”, and they stopped and pricked up their eye stalks eagerly. Saint Francis addressed the creatures thus:
“Blessed are you, my sister slugs because you are models of true humility. You do not try to be high fliers like other creatures but cling to the earth. You do not try to be anything other than what you are. You do not protect yourselves with hard shells like your cousins the snails, but leave yourselves vulnerable in the open and offer yourselves as food to other creatures. You are despised by cleverer creatures because you are simple and so, rejoice, since God who made you loves you greatly.”
A prayer from The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis As aspects of life return to normality, we pray especially for all who remain particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and are anxious about the dangers of infection: O Lord, our refuge, our hope, and our peace, be with us as our protector and our salvation. Keep us all safe from danger, calm those who are anxious in spirit, and help our whole society to work together to continue to protect the most vulnerable, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. The Lord bless us and keep us, the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us, the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.
Sourced via L’Arche Kent.
Some local churches will open for worship this weekend.
In connection with this subject of melancholy, George Eliot speaks somewhere of the “sadness of a summer’s evening.” How wonderfully true—like everything that came from that wonderful pen—the observation is! Who has not felt the sorrowful enchantment of those lingering sunsets? The world belongs to Melancholy then, a thoughtful deep-eyed maiden who loves not the glare of day.
It is not till “light thickens and the crow wings to the rocky wood” that she steals forth from her groves. Her palace is in twilight land. It is there she meets us. At her shadowy gate she takes our hand in hers and walks beside us through her mystic realm. We see no form, but seem to hear the rustling of her wings.
Even in the toiling hum-drum city her spirit comes to us. There is a sombre presence in each long, dull street; and the dark river creeps ghostlike under the black arches, as if bearing some hidden secret beneath its muddy waves. In the silent country, when the trees and hedges loom dim and blurred against the rising night, and the bat’s wing flutters in our face, and the land-rail’s* cry sounds drearily across the fields, the spell sinks deeper still into our hearts. We seem in that hour to be standing by some unseen death-bed, and in the swaying of the elms we hear the sigh of the dying day.
A solemn sadness reigns. A great peace is around us. In its light our cares of the working day grow small and trivial, and bread and cheese—ay, and even kisses—do not seem the only things worth striving for. Thoughts we cannot speak but only listen to flood in upon us, and standing in the stillness under earth’s darkening dome, we feel that we are greater than our petty lives. Hung round with those dusky curtains, the world is no longer a mere dingy workshop, but a stately temple wherein man may worship, and where at times in the dimness his groping hands touch God’s.
On Being Hard Up from Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome. A hint of Laudato Si’ before its time.
* The land rail or corncrake has disappeared from much of Europe due to modern agriculture destroying nests. It will spend the night in corn fields, saying its own Latin name, over and over again: CREX, CREX.
Every week Bishop Rose and the three archdeacons for our diocese, along with other members of the senior team have invited us throughout lockdown to join them for a discussion, as to how things are going, with a theme each week – and today we focused on ‘safe places’ – places where we go where we feel safe, where we can be open to God – often in the quietness we hear that voice. For some it is sitting on a beach, or being in a garden or going on a walk; for others it is delving into a book – or a hobby in which we feel safe and secure. For many it is their homes, and very local environment, and the thought of venturing further afield, especially as lockdown eases is itself quite daunting; though one must remain ever mindful that with domestic abuse (and other abuse) the home has not always proven to be that safe place. My ‘bolt hole’ is the Quiet View at Kingston, somewhere where one can be still in the presence of the Lord; and it is important to identify these places – even during the course of the day, to have that Quiet Time. I use a free App: Pray as you Go – which has the gospel reading for the day, prayer and reflection, and is an excellent start to the day, but we are all different and God speaks to each and everyone of us in different ways. St Thomas More: On Monday we would have had our service in St Dunstan’s Church for St Thomas More, but like so many other things, that wasn’t to be; however Rev. Brian McHenry, who is part of our St Thomas More Committee will be leading a short service 7.00 Monday evening,. Medieval Pageant: This weekend was also going to have seen our Medieval Pageant pass through the streets, with the focus on Becket 2020 (so much was planned for this year!) However, the team who put it together are doing so virtually, and if interested please follow here: https://www.facebook.com/canterburymedievalpageant/
The weather vane on St Peter’s Church Canterbury shows his Cross Keys.
More reflection from Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury. I hope that by the time this is published the restrictions on people attending funerals will have been eased. Thank you again for allowing us to share your reflections, Jo.
Just back from another funeral, this really is tough with so few family and friends being present, to say goodbye to someone, and this morning reading Psalm 23 seemed to speak into the situation of being comforted by God’s presence in all that we are and all that we do. That sense of God with us both in the good times, and the most challenging of times.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil;my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
I saw this yesterday from the Mother’s Union prayer diary, which I thought was lovely: Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting and tedious of all works. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.’ Corrie Ten Boom 1892- 1983.
Rev Jo Richards,
Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury.
The Good Shepherd statue in St Mildred’s, Canterbury.
Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
‘That’s not a threat, it’s a promise!’ as one of my old teachers used to say, not necessarily to great effect. I wonder whether some of us are looking at our pre-lockdown lives and realising that a sense of self-importance has crept into our hearts our and veins. It’s encouraged by so many aspects of our life: the cult of celebrity and of riches — with the conspicuous spending that can go with it; competition and the riches that accompany elite sports players; the vastly higher pay given to people with clean hands.
At Pentecost time, let’s pray for wisdom as we come out of lockdown, and for a love of our planet that will provide a sustainable future for all creatures of our God and King.
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.”
Who’s speaking here? Who is defending Almighty God? This is when the Book of Job suddenly jolts. Elihu bursts in, full of wrath, full of anger, at the thoughts expressed by Job’s friends. They are blaming Job for being wicked, despite appearances, and deserving every misfortune that has come his way, or else blaming God for being unjust to Job.
We saw how the editors of Exodus wrote that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart – and also that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God could be said to have made Pharaoh’s heart hard because he created him in the first place. You sense that Elihu would not stand for such hair-splitting. ‘God will not do wickedly.’
Who is this Elihu? He’ s not one of the original cast, he just bursts in. Some have suggested that he is the actual writer if the book, giving his own thoughts and opinions. He’s an ‘angry young man’ with no time for what he sees as interminable, sterile philosophising. Here William Blake shows him as young, not set in his ways (or other people’s ways) and naked: he’s naked because he is innocent – like Adam and Eve were before the fall, not diminishing God through overthinking.
God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. We are capable of both.
From “The Holy Bible, English Standard Version by Crossway Bibles, via Kindle
When Mrs T and I were visiting Germany and Poland, we had to change trains in Cologne. Since the Cathedral is right by the railway station and we had two hours to spare, our plan was easily made. And efficiently undermined by a delay on the Eurostar, which led to arriving in Berlin 6 hours late. Jerome K Jerome did visit the Cathedral between trains in 1890. You don’t have to agree with every word he says, any more than I do, but he has some insight into silence.
There is little to be said about a cathedral. Except to the professional sightseer, one is very much like another. Their beauty to me lies, not in the paintings and sculpture they give houseroom to, nor in the bones and bric-à-brac piled up in their cellars, but in themselves—their echoing vastness, their deep silence. Above the little homes of men, above the noisy teeming streets, they rise like some soft strain of perfect music, cleaving its way amid the jangle of discordant notes. Here, where the voices of the world sound faint; here, where the city’s glamour comes not in, it is good to rest for a while—if only the pestering guides would leave one alone—and think.
There is much help in Silence. From its touch we gain renewed life. From contact with it we rise healed of our hurts and strengthened for the fight. Amid the babel of the schools we stand bewildered and affrighted. Silence gives us peace and hope. Silence teaches us no creed, only that God’s arms are around the universe.
How small and unimportant seem all our fretful troubles and ambitions when we stand with them in our hand before the great calm face of Silence! We smile at them ourselves, and are ashamed.