Tag Archives: exile

23 March. Before the Cross X: Christ crucified welcomes us.

 

 
christ acc2

As a teenager I visited the resort of Tignes in France on a family skiing holiday. On our way through the French Alps from the airport, our coach crossed a dam, and we could see a large reservoir stretching up the valley to our left. Our ski rep began to tell us a story. There had been a village known as Tignes, which had been flooded and destroyed with the creation of the reservoir in 1952, and its people had been relocated to a newly built village, Tignes Les Boisses. The church there, l’église Saint Jacques de Tarentaise, had been built to a design similar to that in “Old Tignes”. All this is verifiable history. The road wound uphill, away from the dam, and we entered the purpose-built village.

Our rep related how an elderly couple, objecting to the flooding of their valley, and ignoring all the remonstrances of the EDF and local authority negotiators, had refused steadfastly to leave their home. They had drowned as the waters rose to form the new reservoir. He told us to look to our right as we drove past the church, and to notice the crucifix in front of it. The arms of Jesus had originally been nailed to the crossbeam, he said, but over the years they had dropped down to their present position, as though Jesus himself were pleading on behalf of the drowned couple. There was no scientific explanation for this extraordinary phenomenon (great solemnity and wonderment in his voice at this point); not even in the natural warping properties of wood.

The image of this cross has remained with me through my adult life, and I have retold the story of it more than once, and with equal solemnity. But I recently discovered that it wasn’t true at all. At least, I have found no evidence that the elderly couple ever existed. The crucifix itself was crafted by Jean Touret for the new church, with the arms of Jesus extended downwards in an expression of grief for the loss of the old village. It was also to represent Jesus’s welcome of visitors. He named the work ” le Christ Accueillant ” – The Welcoming Christ.

I would rather our ski rep had told us the truth surrounding this remarkable crucifix. Perhaps he believed his story. Or perhaps venturing into the “religious” subject of Christ’s welcome made him feel uncomfortable. As in so many movies, here was an invented tale designed to make is feel indignant towards big-business callousness and government collusion. And our sense of moral outrage is validated by the direct involvement of God himself. No harm in that, surely?

Jean Touret had wanted to honour a community genuinely affected by trauma and loss. His purpose had not been to elicit indignation, but to recognise that Christ stands with the broken and dispossessed. And nobody is honoured by fabricated miracle stories, least of all Jesus. The Hollywood approach fundamentally misreads what is meant in the gospels by the Kingdom of God. It would direct our disdain towards world powers and social injustices over which we have very little control. It would have us “rage against the machine” much like the zealots in Jesus’s own day.

To the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” GK Chesterton’s famous answer was “I am”. The challenge of the gospel is to grasp our own need for a saviour, and in love (rather than self-righteous indignation), to consider the world’s need for a saviour too. “Le Christ Accueillant” does indeed signify a miracle: that Jesus welcomes us today into the presence of the Loving Father. Not from the cross, but as a resurrected, living Saviour, whose brutal crucifixion made our rescue and welcome possible.

Rupert Greville

   Thank you, Rupert, for another thought-provoking image and prayerful reflection. WT.

The story of the Church and Image 1:

Image 2:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 December: The Holy Family

flight.egypt.amsterdam

Before Amsterdam had numbers for houses, people used plaques on their walls to identify their home or business premises. Perhaps this one belonged to one of the many exiles living in what was then a small city on a marshy riverside. Here is Joseph taking a watchful Mary and Baby away to Egypt; He has his tools with him, including one very long saw. Perhaps he cut his own planks from the tree, or maybe it pleased the artist’s eye to show it at the pinnacle of the picture. Joseph may have given up his business but he was not giving up work.

Exile was a serious business, true enough, but Joseph was able to start work in Cairo and support his family. (The Franciscan church there that bears his name is said to be near the Holy Family’s home.)

Here is a prayer from USPG.

O God, who made your home among us in Jesus of Nazareth, we pray for those who have been forced from their homes and now live as migrants and refugees. Bless them and all who work to bring them relief, comfort and a new home.

Amen.

We could pray, too, that refugees may be allowed to find work and education in their exile, that they may be better equipped to help restore their homeland when they are able to return.

 

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December 1: The Story of a Rose.

elizabeth's rose
In Saint Mildred’s churchyard, across from the L’Arche garden, there is a solitary standard rose; it was looking quite shabby with suckers at the base and lots of blackspot on the leaves. Beside it is a plaque telling that it was planted in memory of Elizabeth, who was married in this church in 1948, emigrated, and died in Australia.
One day this spring I could bear it no longer and pruned the flowering stems hard, removed the suckers and sprayed for blackspot.
The rose has had its winter pruning, but there have been two flushes of flowers and a late third. I was pleased about that. But one Friday I heard more of its story. Elizabeth’s  husband Albert had paid for the rose from Australia. When he came back to visit Canterbury after her death, he met one of the ladies who now run the coffee mornings where L’Arche are regular customers, including Abel when he’s around.
She knew the returning native straight away. ‘I said, “You’re Albert that went to Australia.”‘ His wife had the most beautiful golden hair, she reminded him, not auburn but pure gold. ‘Well, after that he kept in touch though now he’s 91. He was only on the phone yesterday, asking, “How’s Elizabeth’s rose?” Now I can tell him. Thank you for taking it on. ‘
So there we are. You don’t know what ripples may come from a random act of something like kindness; and often enough you may never know. But it was worth pruning the rose for its own sake. Laudato si!
MMB.

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15 August: The flooding of the Nile

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The Assumption of Mary and the Flooding of the Nile: two feasts on the same day, can we connect them?

The Nile, of course, is life to Egypt, water and fertility. Here is Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, just arrived in Cairo in 1942 after working in Ethiopia, then often called Abyssinia:

The heavy rains of Abyssinia run down from her mountains and hillsides in torrents and go to swell the River Nile as it flows out of Lake Tana. I thought how those Biblical years in the Old Testament – the seven years of thinness and famine in Egypt – were due of course to seven years of slight or no rains in Abyssinia. This year here at Cairo the River is very high: August the 17th is Feast of the Nile and has been for thousands of years, since for thousands of years the month of August brings down to the Nile Delta the torrential rains of Abyssinia and the Nile overflows its banks and waters the lands and forms that green belt of vegetation in the middle of the desert which is Egypt.

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Mary provided an oasis of love where her son could grow into boyhood and manhood, for the first few years in Egypt, traditionally in the Cairo area. Imagine her in the market, buying food grown in the fertile soil of the delta, just as we do – though she would not have bought Egyptian potatoes or tomatoes, as we have done this Spring.

Let us be grateful for the food we receive from Egypt and around the world; let’s pray for true peace in Egypt and the Middle East; and let’s thank God for Mary’s loving care of her Son, and the true peace which he brings.

MMB.

I do not know why we have two slightly different dates for the Nile Feast! MMB.

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17 July: F is for Fishguard

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What is it about Docks and Ports? Dover, East End of London, and now Fishguard? Things happen there, as they do at railway stations.

Fishguard, one of the ports to go to Ireland, is tucked into this rocky Welsh shore, not far from St David’s. I introduced readers to the late John Byrne a year ago last month; he was a highly respected Irish railway modeller.

He was also a retired sea captain. When we were in Pembrokeshire I sent him a photo of the Ferry arriving in port; he recognised her at once, saying she was not built for the Irish Sea and the Atlantic swells, but for the enclosed Mediterranean  or the Baltic, and gave many a rough ride when the wind was up.

I wonder how it was for Saint Nôn and her son David, forced into exile when he was little, voyaging on a tiny boat across the very sea that John’s big ship was so ill-equipped for?

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Let us remember in our prayers all those in peril on the sea, especially those trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats. Like the one used to make the Lampedusa Cross. And remember, too, the crews who spend months at sea, rarely able to call home, ill-paid, forgotten by us consumers who depend on their hard work. crososososo1450655040

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Saturday January 2nd The Cappadocian Fathers

rdjunction, lakes

Today is the feast of Basil the Great (330-379) and his friend, Gregory Nazianzus (329-390), known as ‘the Theologian’. Together with Basil’s brother Gregory of Nyssa, they are remembered as the Cappadocian Fathers. Basil was one of ten children born into a wealthy Christian family whose commitment to their faith had been tested by persecution: a maternal grandfather had suffered martyrdom, while their paternal grandparents had their property confiscated and fled to the forested mountains of Pontus where they lived for seven years by hunting and fishing. Basil and Gregory Nazianzus met as students in Athens and remained lifelong friends. They had contrasting temperaments. Basil was the extravert man of action, an able leader, administrator and ecclesiastical politician whose preferred form of religious life was communal, while Gregory was a sensitive introvert, poet and man of letters who disliked publicity and loved solitude. Both were major players in the development and consolidation of Trinitarian doctrine and the victory of Nicene orthodoxy, which affirmed the divinity of the Son, over Arianism, which denied it. It is to Gregory that we owe the maxim, ‘What has not been assumed, has not been redeemed’ (Letter 101).

MLT.

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