Maynard’s Spittal, alms houses for aged persons, XVI Century, Canterbury.
From Visitation III.
And, hearts heavy with the weight of hope they carry,
Mary, Elisabeth and her good old husband
Go to sit, the three together, on the doorstep,
Filled with shadow and silence, hands on their knees.
Far away, filmy fields fade into filmy sky:
Its crop of golden stars will soon be flowering.
Elisabeth, tired, wonders if she’s feeling pains.
They look at the evening, dream, wait, and wait again.
Marie Noel (1883-1967) is new to me. An unmarried provincial French woman, she had the gift of poetry and an incarnational theology, evident here in the last two stanzas of this poem. The story and yesterday’s feast of the Visitation will be for me all the more lively for this image of three tired human beings at the end of their day, sitting in silence under God’s good heaven, watching the stars, maybe watching and waiting for one star in particular.
Waiting, not for Godot who never comes, but for God’s son and his herald; every day let us watch and wait, and prepare the way of the Lord.
I that was born in Wales
Cherish heaven's dust in scales
Which may at dust be seen
On every village green
Where Tawe, Taff or Wye
Through fields and woods goes by,
Or Western Towy's flame
Writes all its watery name
In gold, and blinds our eyes;
For so heaven's joys surprise,
Like music from mild air
Too marvellous to bear
Within the bell's wild span,
The pausing, conscious man,
Who questions at what age
The dead are raised? To assuage
The curious, vision smooths
The lids of age, and youth's.
Even man's defeated hopes
Are variants of those stops
Which, when the god has played,
No creature stands betrayed.
From Collected Poems of Vernon Watkins, p214.
Tawe, Taff, Wye and Towy are rivers of Wales.
Watkins notes that 'every argument but the silent prayer of the dust itself, expecting resurrection, is an evasion of truth, swayed by a too optimistic hope or a too impatient despair from its true music.'
As we will be reminded tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we are dust, and unto dust each one of us will return. Dust is one of the smallest things we can see, but it is glorious when it dances as motes in the lowering sun at dusk.
No creature will stand betrayed by God, says Watkins. Saint David told us to be faithful in the little things; the dust to which we will return deserves our faithful consideration, polluted as it has been by humankind - you and me. Let us be pausing, conscious men and women throughout this Lent.
listening to the dance-music of the tide in the evening.
from “Stray Birds” by Rabindranath Tagore
And very gentle music it was, this winter’s evening in Margate. At the turn of the year, let’s pray that we may enjoy such evenings in this life, with a warm home to return to.
And may He support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.
John Henry Cardinal Newman
Apologies that the Tagore’s numbering has got out of sequence.
This is the ancient baptistry of Milan Cathedral; here it was that Saint Ambrose baptised Augustine, back in the fourth century. This area, adjacent to today’s Cathedral, was rediscovered when the Metro was being excavated after World War II. Ambrose was a good pastoral bishop, working to reconcile different bodies of Christians and to present the faith as a reasonable life choice in an age of scepticism. We just skipped his feast to accommodate Sister Johanna’s One Good Deed posts, which tied in nicely with Mary’s feast yesterday. Ambrose was great, but not that great!
Ambrose was also a poet, who wrote this evening hymn, still very much used today; this is J.M. Neale’s translation.
Before the ending of the day, Creator the world, we pray, that with thy wonted favour thou wouldst be our guard and keeper now.
From all ill dreams defend our eyes, from nightly fears and fantasies; tread under foot our ghostly foe, that no pollution we may know.
O Father, that we ask be done, through Jesus Christ thine only Son, who, with the Holy Ghost and thee, doth live and reign eternally. Amen.
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.
Did the Sun stand still that you might have perpetual day, you would not know the sweetness of repose: the delightful vicissitudes of night and day, the early sweetness and spring of the morning, the perfume and beauty in the cool of the evening, would all be swallowed up in meridian splendour: all which now entertain you with delights.
The antipodes would be empty, perpetual darkness and horror there, and the Works of God on the other side of the world in vain.
Traherne anticipates Pope Francis in this reflection, or should I say he brings to mind Saint Francis and his Canticle of Creation. Difficult, now, to say whether he knew that text, but he invites us to join all creatures of our God and King and sing his praises. Take time to absorb his way of speaking and let the light sink in.
Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury
Our last reading from Father Andrew this Christmastime.
Adoro Te Devote Latens Deitas
Who could refuse the appeal
Of Baby hands stretched out caressingly,
Or patter of Baby feet upon the stair?
It was like Love to deal
So with us in His sweet humility,
To be a little Child amongst us here;
And at the last, when those same hands had borne
The scars of labour and the pierce of sin,
Faithful at eventide as in the morn
Of His first Coming, still to seek to win,
With bleeding hands held wide in mute appeal,
The acceptance of His own unchanging love.