He in the evening, when on high The stars shine in the silent sky, Beholds th' eternal flames with mirth, And globes of light more large than Earth; Then weeps for joy, and through his tears Looks on the fire-enamell'd spheres, Where with his Saviour he would be Lifted above mortality. Meanwhile the golden stars do set, And the slow pilgrim leave all wet With his own tears, which flow so fast They make his sleeps light, and soon past. from Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist, Volume II via Kindle Eddie was writing about the stars yesterday, so an opportunity presents to complement his reflection with a poem. I was talking to a friend who had been moved to tears by a television drama, and remarked that certain saints had written of 'the gift of tears'. My friend was grateful that the fountain had welled up within her. Here we have a 17th Century poet, writing in English though living in Wales. He was twenty years old when Galileo died. Science did not erode his faith but enhanced it, intellectually and emotionally, the sight of the 'fire-enamell'd spheres' moving him to tears of awe at creation.
Tag Archives: drama
Saint Thomas Becket – World Celebrity Healer
Thomas Becket was the focus of pilgrimage to Canterbury from his death in 1170 to the destruction of his shrine in 1538. This exhibition at the city’s Beaney Museum is only running to 4 July, so it might be as well to try and book now, though you can take a chance and turn up and hope for a slot.
Sat 29th May 2021 to Sun 4th July 2021
A major exhibition in the context of Becket’s story, Canterbury pilgrimage and health & wellbeing. 2020 marked the 900th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s birth, 850th of his death, and 800th of moving Becket’s relics to a new tomb and chapel in Canterbury Cathedral.
Miracles after Becket’s murder, recorded in stained glass, led to Europe-wide spread of relics and images, making Becket a world ‘celebrity’. As well as presenting this story, displays will explore Becket’s fame as a symbol of conflict between Church and state, conscience and duty.
Photographs, designs and cartoons will feature portrayals in theatre and film from Henry Irving to Richard Burton, and writers including Tennyson and Eliot creating Becket’s enduring legacy as a rebel.
The exhibition will be part of a programme of events developed by partners from across the UK and a platform to commemorate the remarkable life and death of Thomas Becket.
The exhibition showcases loans from The British Museum, The Arts Council Collection, University of Kent , Canterbury Cathedral and Canterbury Museums & Gallery.
Location: Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Beaney
After the Passion play at Oberammergau it was time for Jerome K Jerome to leave the village and make room for the next wave of visitors. He was driven down to the railway in a horse-drawn omnibus, along with other passengers, including a couple of Englishwomen. The word ‘omnibus’ means ‘for all’: but not quite, it seemed:
They were grumbling the whole of the way at having been put to ride in an omnibus. It seemed that they had never been so insulted in their lives before, and they took care to let everybody in the vehicle know that they had paid for first-class, and that at home they kept their own carriage. They were also very indignant because the people at the house where they had lodged had offered to shake hands with them at parting. They did not come to Ober-Ammergau to be treated on terms of familiarity by German peasants, they said.
Diary of a Pilgrimage by Jerome K. Jerome.
Of course, they missed the point but so do we when we are anxious to maintain our good image, even if only in our own eyes.
A strange Good Friday but the L’Arche morning service, conducted through a Zoom gathering, made it specially memorable. It was good to see and hear so many friends, all pleased to see each other. The reflections on the traditional Stations of the Cross were personal and insightful, illustrated by photographs of each station enacted by Cana house. It was a privilege to be there; no more to be said about the day and its import.
In the evening we took our walk in the gloaming and saw our first bats of the year. Life goes on; Jupiter beams down as well as the Easter moon, waning now. The last stretch of the planned walk we deferred as it was getting too dark to see the potholes; home safely for all that. People taking care to distance themselves from each other.
Six times a year a mixed gathering of L’Arche core members, assistants and friends meet as the Pilgrims’ Group to pray, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. Pilgrims? Well we are in Canterbury, where every footstep is on the traces of pilgrims to the Shrine of Thomas and saints like Alphege and Mildred from Saxon times, less well known now but great witnesses.
We make no claim to greatness but we do witness together with Scripture, prayer and fellowship at a shared table. This time we were remembering the wise men who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to meet an infant king – but found him in Bethlehem.
Our celebration – and we are good at celebrations – took the form of a mini-mystery play around the office and workshop. The wise men left their cosy way of life behind, to try another way: the pilgrim road, seeking for the new born King, and being pointed to Jerusalem.
And they had to try another way to go home, after they all had the same dream. Here is the text we followed, and the figures that we used to act out the story. After that, we prayed around the table, made ourselves crowns, and feasted. We are good at celebrations!
The lines in blue are repeated by all; red for rubrics means stage directions, not to be read aloud.
The readings are from Isaiah and Saint Matthew.
Isaiah wrote about people going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem before Jesus was born.
Shine out, Jerusalem, your light has come! Kings will come to your shining light. They will bring gold and incense and sing the praise of the Lord.
All: Sing the praise of the Lord.
Our scented candle can stand for the frankincense and myrrh, and the flame is the same colour as gold.
The wise men were pilgrims following the star.
Mark to take up star to first station where magi are waiting.
After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in the time of King Herod, some wise men came from the east.
Wherever they went they asked: ‘Where is the baby king of the Jews?’
‘Where is the baby king of the Jews?’
On the way they told people: We saw his star and have come to honour him.’
We saw his star and have come to honour him.’
Nobody else thought the star was special. They all said:
‘Go to Jerusalem to see the King of the Jews.’
Stop at three ‘stations’ and repeat this scene.
At Jerusalem station we see Herod flanked by hid guards.
When they got to Jerusalem, they went to see King Herod. He was worried. He asked the priests and the teachers where Christ was to be born. They told him ‘At Bethlehem .’
‘At Bethlehem .’
‘for the prophet wrote:
Bethlehem! Out of you will come the shepherd of my people Israel.’
Bethlehem! Out of you will come the shepherd of my people Israel.’
Then Herod called the wise men. He asked them when the star had appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem. ‘Come and tell me when you find the baby, then I may go and worship him.’ They listened to the king, and they set out. And the star went forward, and halted over the place where the child was.
To final station, the crib.
They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they fell to their knees. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and they went home a different way.
they went home a different way.
When I was at L’Arche Edmonton, I visited one of the activities where core members worked. The man in charge of it was a wise teacher. He taught me something I’ve never forgotten. Don’t tell someone they are doing something wrong when they are doing their best. Say, Try another way.
That is what the wise men did. First of all they left their home and their work to follow a star. And then, instead of going back to report to King Herod, they went home a different way. If they all had the same dream, they would have taken it seriously! Let’s try another way with the people we live and work with this year.
With thanks to Christina Chase who helped crystallise some of the ideas in this celebration, and thanks to Abel for the loan of his people.
For Jesus, the Exile from Heaven,
I have met in the world
Only a profound indifference
This is why I come to Carmel.
So that your tenderness
And your caresses
And your praises
Oh sisters of the angels!
Be for the Child.
Burn with love, delighted soul,
A God made Himself mortal for you.
Oh! touching mystery
The One who is begging from you
Is the Eternal Word!…
Read more of this English version of Thérèse’s play.
It was Maundy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was over, and we awaited our turn to proceed to the Altar of Repose. The man who had caught my eye and smiled at the Sign of Peace came across and shook my hand.
‘Hello Simeon, I was Caiaphas.’
A few years before we had taken those parts in a mystery play in Canterbury Cathedral, put on by the Franciscan Study Centre under Walter Lippi from Florence.
To come together that night! The play had mostly been about the trial and judicial assassination of Jesus, and its effects on Mary.
Caiaphas: It is better for one man to die for the nation.
Simeon: My eyes have seen thy Salvation which you have prepared before all peoples. A sword will pierce your heart.
Which of them had more evidence about Jesus? Simeon saw the Messiah in a little child; Caiaphas could weigh up the political situation caused by Jesus’ ministry, but had no vision, Eyes that did not see.
When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Simeon, foreground, with Friar Stefan to our left and Caiaphas to our right.
Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Cross, today of Mary as Queen of Sorrows. Father Anthony Charlton at St Thomas’s Church, Canterbury, has invited us to pray especially at this time for all those affected by abuse of children and vulnerable people in the Church. May we have the vision to survey the Cross on which the Prince of Glory’s brothers and sisters are tortured in our day, and the wisdom to take the first steps to helping them.
The selection of Matthias as a replacement disciple for Judas has reminded me of a time when I studied acting at a wonderful acting school in Brighton. We would play various games to get inside the heart of a character. One of these involved wearing someone else’s shoes.
We would remove our shoes, put them in a circle and then walk around them to some music. When the music stopped, we put on the shoes. I did not know whose shoes I had to wear and when I put them on they felt like floppy boats.
Once in the spotlight I had to walk about in these alien shoes, to speak and to gesture. I became another person by dint of these shoes. The shape and feel of them influenced my speech and actions. I walked in a slightly comical way, like a clown. I became more relaxed and kindly. I felt a humility I had not experienced before and as I responded to questions I spoke in a gentler fashion. I realised very soon whose shoes I was wearing. They belonged to a good natured young man from Sweden called Adam. I knew deeply within my physical self now, how it was to be Adam.
How often do we think things about others and challenge our thinking by comparing it to the reality? If our thinking is skewed, our interpretation about others is also skewed. If it is benevolent then our thinking is benevolent. Yet neither of these options may resemble the absolute truth about the other. The interpretation is all a construct our own mind.
Wearing someone else’s shoes metaphorically means truly taking on and being present in who they really are and not how we think them to be. Is this why peace is often so hard to establish?
I suggest we ask our world leaders to swap shoes with each other and walk about in them for a while…. though the idea of President Trump in Theresa May’s long shiny over the knee boots is a little troubling!
The Angel of Mercy joins the other angels to explain why mercy is needed:
We see the world of men seizing and slaying,
Lusting for wealth, destroying and betraying,
With neither hope nor peace,
Save greed, between their darkness and decaying.
They come out of a darkness; they awaken
To the Blood’s storms, they tremble, they are shaken,
With neither hope nor peace,
They war in bloody blindness until taken. (pp 4-5)
Seizing and slaying – what changes? Greed is encouraged, consumption to keep the economy growing, so that we can earn more money and lust for more wealth. And whether it is people or the environment, we go on slaying or others do so in our name.
We need God’s mercy to live, and our sisters and brothers need us to live God’s mercy in hope and peace, whatever bloody blindness infects our society.