Tag Archives: dark

3 May: In the Gloom of the Evening.

Doctor Johnson is on his travels in the Isle of Skye, in Autumn of the year 1773. The places named were homes of the local gentry who unfailingly welcomed Johnson and his friend James Boswell.There were no roads on Skye at this time and a trusted guide was absolutely necessary for safety.

More than 200 years later, I cannot help but think of the violence, terror and uncertainty that so many unwilling travellers have experienced in recent months, and the welcome they have received from strangers in their unexpected hour of need. Let us hope and pray that a ‘degree of cheerfulness’ may be granted them through the kindness of others, enabling them to sustain their children and vulnerable dependents.

In our way to Armidel (Armadale) was Coriatachan, where we had already been, and to which therefore we were very willing to return.  We staid however so long at Talisker, that a great part of our journey was performed in the gloom of the evening. 

In travelling even thus almost without light thro’ naked solitude, when there is a guide whose conduct may be trusted, a mind not naturally too much disposed to fear, may preserve some degree of cheerfulness; but what must be the solicitude of him who should be wandering, among the craggs and hollows, benighted, ignorant, and alone? The fictions of the Gothick romances were not so remote from credibility as they are now thought. 

In the full prevalence of the feudal institution, when violence desolated the world, and every baron lived in a fortress, forests and castles were regularly succeeded by each other, and the adventurer might very suddenly pass from the gloom of woods, or the ruggedness of moors, to seats of plenty, gaiety, and magnificence.  Whatever is imaged in the wildest tale, if giants, dragons, and enchantment be excepted, would be felt by him, who, wandering in the mountains without a guide, or upon the sea without a pilot, should be carried amidst his terror and uncertainty, to the hospitality and elegance of Raasay or Dunvegan.

Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland by Samuel Johnson.

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Pray for Unity, Pray for the Synod 


 
For the 2022 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Cardinal Mario Grech and Cardinal Kurt Koch invite all Christians to pray for unity and to continue to journey together.
 
In a joint letter sent on 28 October 2021 to all bishops responsible for ecumenism, Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Grech, General Secretary of the Synod of the Bishops, wrote: “Both synodality and ecumenism are processes of walking together.”
 
The 2022 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (Mt 2: 2) prepared by the Middle East Council of Churches, offers an occasion to pray with all Christians that the Synod will proceed in an ecumenical spirit.
 
Both Cardinals affirm “Like the Magi, Christians too journey together guided by the same heavenly light and encountering the same worldly darkness. They too are called to worship Jesus together and open their treasures. Conscious of our need for the accompaniment and the many gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we call on them to journey with us during these two years and we sincerely pray that Christ will lead us closer to Him and so to one another.”
 
The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity are therefore pleased to offer this prayer:
 


Download the press release in PDFEcumenism and synodality For the next newsletter, let us know your initiatives on the theme of “ecumenism and synodality” by sending the material to webmaster@synodresources.org
 
Have a good unity week and a good synodal journey!

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17 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Introduction III.

Brede Valley.

The Covid-19 global pandemic; the economic crisis that has followed and the failure of political, economic and social structures to protect the weakest and most vulnerable; and the racism that blights our communities have underlined the global need for a light to shine in the darkness. The star that shone in the East, (the Middle East), two thousand years ago still leads us to the manger, to where Christ was born. It draws us to where the Spirit of God is alive and active.

After encountering the Saviour and worshipping him together, the Magi return to their countries by a different way, having been warned in a dream. The communion we share in our prayer together must inspire us to return to ourselves, our churches and our world by new ways. But what does this mean
in practice?

Serving the Gospel today requires a commitment to humankind, especially the poorest, the weakest and those marginalised. It requires from the churches transparency and accountability in dealing with the world, and with each other. This means churches need to cooperate to provide relief to the afflicted, to welcome the displaced, to relieve the burdened, and to build a just and honest society.

This is a call for churches to work together so that we can all build a good future according to God’s heart, a future in which all human beings can experience life, peace, justice, and love.

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21 December:The Nativity Of Christ I, Eternal life doth now begin

The Nativity of Christ by Robert Southwell

Behold the father is his daughter's son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.
O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.

Doesn't Southwell love a paradox! Yet the greatest of the paradoxes is that Jesus did come into this world at all. Eternal life to live did then begin: in a certain place, Bethlehem, at a certain time, 'in the days of Herod the king' (Matthew 2:1). We also have been given a time for the end of his earthly life 'under Pontius Pilate'. But that was not the end ... 

Robert Southwell had cause to know darkness and despair as a Jesuit Missionary to England; he was captured and martyred under Elizabeth Tudor in 1595, aged about 34. Eternal life for him did then begin.

Let us pray for all persecuted or neglected this Christmas, that they may be embraced by joy.

Illustration from a mid-19th Century Methodist Sunday School book.

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29 October: Autumn according to Johnson.

Vain wish ! Me fate compels to bear
  The downward season's iron reign;
Compels to breathe polluted air,
  And shiver on a blasted plain.

What bliss to life can autumn yield,
  If glooms, and show'rs, and storms prevail,
And Ceres flies the naked field,
  And flowers, and fruits, and Phoebus fail?

Oh! what remains, what lingers yet,
  To cheer me in the dark'ning hour!
The grape remains! the friend of wit,
  In love, and mirth, of mighty pow'r.

Haste—press the clusters, fill the bowl;
  Apollo! shoot thy parting ray:
This gives the sunshine of the soul,
  This god of health, and verse, and day.

Still—still the jocund strain shall flow,
  The pulse with vig'rous rapture beat;
My Stella with new charms shall glow,
  And ev'ry bliss in wine shall meet.
  • Ceres: Roman goddess of harvest.
  • Phoebus Appollo: Roman sun god.

(from Volume 1 The Works of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D., in Nine Volumes)

It is about now that the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released, so ‘haste – press the clusters’ is about right. Johnson was also capable of admitting that too much of a good thing was possible. The pollution in London today is from gas and petrol rather than wood and coal fires, but just as real. Despite the pollution, Jonson was never tired of London.

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20 August: A little cool air seeps in.

It’s the feast of Saint Bernard, one of the founding fathers of the Cistercian reform of monastic life. Our reflection is from Thomas Merton, writing in 1952. The celebration of the Eucharist has changed in religious communities as much, if not more than in parishes; there is one Community Mass each day, but there is still room for silence with God.

Our picture is from the trailer for Outside the City, a film by Nick Hamer about the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard’s Abbey in Leicestershire. Read on for Thomas Merton’s reflection on this day.

This week it is my turn to say the brothers’ Communion Mass, Our Lady’s Mass. It is always a Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin, always the same. I like it that way.

In the summer time, this Mass is said at three o’clock in the morning. So I leave the choir after morning meditation to go and say it while the rest of the monks recite Matins and Lauds. I generally finish the brothers’ Communions by the end of the second nocturne, and then go off into the back sacristy and kneel in the dark behind the relic case next to Saint Malachy’s altar, while the sky grows pale outside over the forest and a little cool air seeps in through the slats of the broken shutters.

The birds sing, and the crickets sing, and one priest is silent with God.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, Hollis & Carter, London, 1953, p336.

https://wordpress.com/post/agnellusmirror.wordpress.com/25775

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13 July: Traherne XLV, Visited with heavenly influences.

Having once studied these principles you are eternally to practise them. 
You are to warm yourselves at these fires, 
and to have recourse to them every day. 
When you think not of these things you are in the dark. 
And if you would walk in the light of them, 
you must frequently meditate. 

These principles are like seed in the ground, 
they must continually be visited with heavenly influences, 
or else your life will be a barren field.

The principles Traherne was putting before us (see post of 6 July) are: ‘This life is the most precious season in all Eternity, because all Eternity dependeth on it.’ I repeat the prayer from that post.

Lord, help me to see this life as a part of eternity,
strangely and stupendously blessed
in its place and season.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', Mission

12 April: The Fire Gone Out.


The Fire Gone Out


Our church is smallish, homely, as it should be,
A rectangular box
Light-filled by generous windows.
Spirit-filled by generations of plain-speaking villagers.
A second-hand, twice-loved,
No-nonsense northern chapel in the hills
Complete with gallery and organ of course!
No room for side chapels
No nooks and crannies in which to construct an Altar of Repose.
Needing to take over from Saint Joseph
His small shrine to the left of the Sanctuary.
We can move over,
Those who stay on
To keep company with the Lord
On the night road from the room to the garden,
From the garden to the High Priest
In the midst of rabble,
Torches, weapons, noise,
Police!
While our church, now stripped, 
Leaves us a few hours more
In his presence.

But tomorrow, when all we have remembered
In ritual, prayer and song,
When we have reverenced his image,
Received his Gift …
Then is it empty. 
And helpless, what can we do?
In this emptiness
That echoes with the sound of his leaving?

The door left open,
The table bare
The light extinguished,
The fire gone out.

Come and see,
	Just come and see!

Remember how it was
Before it became Good Friday.
The comfortable familiarity,
His everpresence … 
Withdrawn now into pain,
Rejection, abandonment.
For in the darkness we have abandoned him.

Oh how is our church empty!

Now … We gather in the darkness,
Knowing our loss
And drawn to the emptiness,
Relight the fire,
Set the table,
Restore the light.

Christ, our light!
Thanks be to God!

Hearts renewed in hope
Reach for the light.

Christ our light!
Risen.

Our light-filled
Spirit-filled box!
Our church in the hills!

Sheila writes that this piece is ‘Pre-Covid, by several years – Is this how we will date things in future?’ The previous two poems were new ones. Her little church in the hills is as she describes it, is it not? A light-filled, Spirit-filled box, where the Lord can camp for a while – who are we, even Yorkshire folk, to build Him a house? But he will fill the space when we set the table.

https://www.sacredheartparish.org.uk/

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Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, Easter, Mission, PLaces, poetry, Spring

26 March: lightly locked, Gates VIII.

“The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
To no good man is told.

“But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet 
And the sea rises higher. 

“Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?”

Even as she spoke she was not,
Nor any word said he, 
He only heard, still as he stood
Under the old night’s nodding hood,
The sea-folk breaking down the wood
Like a high tide from sea.

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6 January: So Quiet the Night

Sheila Billingsley understands that the sweetness we need at Christmas is more than soft-centred chocolates or saccharine carols in the Supermarket. Those bring very little joy. But the joy of Christmas is paradoxical …

When Christmas seems like Calvary
And stars concealed by cloud, 
With stable dark
And manger cold, we seek our childhood's needs
Of sweetness and angels' song.

So quiet the night ...

As we,

Rest in the care,
The wondrous care, of a new-born scrap - to be ...
Our King,
     Our Hope,
          Our Strength,
               Our Love.
to be our Joy.

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry, winter