Tag Archives: fire

31 May, Pentecost: The Dove Descending

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“The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

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T.S. Eliot famously could connect nothing with nothing, sitting where we are now, looking across Margate sands. But he also had an insight into Something breaking through the shell of nothingness.

No easy comfort here, but a person can choose to be consumed by the fire – of love.

Pentecost today, the Spirit descends as dove and fire in this window from St Aloysius’ Somers Town, London.

From Eliot’s Four Quartets.

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April 15, Emmaus III: Hurrying away from the city.

 

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Boargate, Leeds, by Atkinson Grimshaw.

The disciples’ journey does not start out as a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is going to somewhere, but these two disciples are hurrying away from the great pilgrimage city of Jerusalem.

Where are they going? It feels to me like nowhere in particular, just a pub they knew they could get to before dark, where they could eat and sleep; provided they were able to get to sleep. Were you ever that tired but unable to sleep at night?

And yet the story finishes with a high-speed pilgrimage back to Jerusalem. In the gloaming if not the dark. No street lights to guide them. What happened to them in between?

What happened was that they listened to Jesus talking, setting their hearts on fire; the Spirit at work. And they knew him in the breaking of bread.

Back in town, they find out that the stay-at-homes have news of Jesus too.

When we think about this pilgrimage of ours, what will we remember? Who have we spent time with? Have we heard them speak from the heart? Did we enjoy eating together? Will we be happy to see them all again? Make home in our hearts for them?

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29 December: Saint Thomas of Canterbury

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The New Year waits, breathes, waits, whispers in darkness.
While the labourer kicks off a muddy boot and stretches his hand to the fire,

The New Year waits, destiny waits for the coming.
Who has stretched out his hand to the fire and remembered the Saints at All Hallows,
Remembered the martyrs and saints who wait? and who shall
Stretch out his hand to the fire, and deny his master:
who shall be warm

By the fire, and deny his master?

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This is from the opening of T S Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’,* written for the Canterbury Festival, 1935. A chorus of Canterbury women are setting the scene for the events that followed Saint Thomas’s return from exile in 1170. We will celebrate his 850th anniversary next year. 

Will we be ready to leave our comfort zone this coming year?

*See Universal Library for full text.

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1 July: Into the forest

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I don’t think the ancient Israelites were altogether fond of the forest. One of the most vivid forest stories tells how Absalom, David’s rebel son, was caught by the hair as he rode under an oak tree while his mule galloped on without him. Absalom was a sitting duck for Joab and his men, who killed him, bringing David to tears. (2 Samuel 18, 19). Earlier, in Joshua 17, we read how the tribe of Joseph cleared away the forest to have room to settle and farm, a process that continues around the world to this day.

But something is lost as we clear the forest and then build suburbs over the resulting fields. Closeness to creation and the creator. Abel, at 3¾ years has found it at Forest School: he spends a day a week in the woods with his nursery school, getting muddy and enjoying himself among the trees. We would wait forever for him to tell us what he gets up to, but my teachers’ magazine ‘Educate’ tells how children are equal partners in learning and can take over the leadership of such sessions, under the guidance of their teachers.

One teacher, Jen Hawkes, says, ‘It’s about shared experiences and making friendships. They build a bond in the forest that helps them in the classroom. We’ve had lots of children making friendships who have previously struggled with that – which is so important, especially for mental health.’ So what the children do is by no means all that they learn out of doors. They learn to trust each other.

Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic in sending us schoolboys into the woods on half-holidays. There would be one or two at least in July; the priest-teachers were probably as sick of lessons as we were, and whatever we may have fancied they were up to in our absence, they no doubt had meetings to discuss our progress and all the routine matters that arise in any school. But we were free for the day. Note the seven pound jam tins, blackened from being used to cook a shared meal on the open fire to the left.  Glamping this was not!

Fifty-odd years after this photograph captured the moment, I am in touch with three of the lads shown. That says something for the bonds built in the forest and other parts of our shared life. Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic!

MMB

 

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June 5: A windy day in Canterbury.

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Eleanor captured a misty day in Canterbury. 

It was a windy day in Canterbury, so windy I did not light up the L’Arche garden incinerator (and who doesn’t like a fire outdoors?).

Home at the end of the morning to hang out the washing: Saint Stephen’s bells are ringing, and a bagpipe playing, blown on the wind which had changed direction so that I had to cycle against it going out and coming in.

Opening the emails, here was part of the day’s reading. Nebuchadnezzar had set up his golden statue:

“Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:4-6

Of course we know what happened: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship the statue, were thrown into the furnace, and were joined by a fourth person,  identified as the angel of the Lord.

I guess the music of the bells and pipes was for a wedding. Let’s hope that the angel of the Lord will be with the couple in all their trials and all their joys.

MMB.

 

 

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Notre Dame de Paris

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We don’t make a habit of reproducing posts, especially quite recent ones. But at this time we should remember that Paris and Notre Dame have known hard times before. It was a relief that the Cathedral survived the Second World War though it was, like the city, exhausted and grubby, when Archbishop Spellman of New York passed through on his way to Rome and his cardinal’s hat in 1946.

The post-war visit to the French capital by and large was anything but gay. For Mass in the great Cathedral of Notre Dame, each priest was still assigned one little piece of candle stuck in a bottle, which was carried from the sacristy by the server and carefully returned. Even when His Eminence gave Solemn Benediction at the main altar, there were only two candles burning.

The streets were dark too, the streets of the City of Light, dark and dirty. The hotels were cold. The shops were shabby. Only the famous Flea Market, which seemed to be very much bigger than ever, was doing a thriving business.

One candle in a neglected, dirty cathedral was a sign of hope, a sign of the Lord’s presence among his people. And even that one candle was an act of defiance to the darkness, the darkness will never overcome!

So, Let your light shine, Notre Dame de Paris! May we all love our own church buildings for it is there that we meet as God’s family. If Notre Dame has many stories of the great and the good, the smallest village chapel has been the meeting place between God and his people.

From ‘The Cardinal Spellman Story’ by Robert L Gannon, London, Robert Hale, 19963, p288. 

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4 April. Before the Cross XX: Dancing in the blazing fiery furnace.

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When I first saw this picture that Rupert sent I had not read his reflection but I soon realised that our perceptions, thoughts and intuitions differed but in a creative way. Perhaps my grandson’s baptism attuned me to baptismal themes here. Thank you Rupert, for sharing this arresting image.

It was the dove descending that I first noticed, coming from the fiery light that overflows from the left hand side of the painting. The Spirit seems to be aiming for the water jar, just left of centre. ‘Fill the jars with water’, the Lord commanded at Cana, and the water and the wedding feast were transformed. To reinforce this connection, the jar at the very left has tongues of fire over it, the Spirit hovering over the waters. We are very much in John’s Gospel here: the cross is part of creation! There are six jars, as at Cana, and a basin in which to wash each other’s feet as in John’s account of the Last Supper.

The figures at the top right are in an attitude of adoration, which they express physically, they are not mere armchair Christians. And their attitude, their bowing, is athletic rather than abject. Thus is fear and trembling felt at a moment of great joy.

The three dancers across the middle of the painting are in harmony rather than unison with each other: there are may ways for Christians to be united, after all, but all hear and react to the same music.

The Cross – the blood-spattered Cross as Rupert points out – dominates the space, but is not a symbol of defeat. Rather like an Eschler work, its perspective is more than two dimensional, thrusting out of the frame, And where its shadow would be, were it not a blaze of light, the Light of the World, the undefeated Christ is carrying his banner forward. The dancers have seen him and respond in joy: the fourth person has appeared in the blazing fiery furnace: they are joyful, suffering, people of the light.

MMB.

Worship by Jun Ramosmos.

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24 December: Edward Thomas at the inn.

A change of voice, a change of pace. Edward Thomas is always worth listening to. This, like all his poetry, was written in the months before his death at the front in 1917. 

THE OWL

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.
Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry
Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as in I went.
And salted was my food, and my repose,
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.”

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18 December: O Adonai, Lord and Leader, Come!

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O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
O Lord and Leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush, come!

Sister Johanna Caton’s second O Antiphon reflection can be found at: Dec 18 – O Adonai

Sister has laid out each of these posts differently to include Latin and English texts of the Antiphons; an image, and not least, her poem in the order that fits best.

 

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17 December: O Sapientia, O Wisdom, come!

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Oh Wisdom come and lead us.

Here is the link to Sister Johanna’s post about Jesus, God’s Wisdom. Dec 17 – O Sapientia

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