Tag Archives: Greece

2 May: the most beautiful, Traherne XLI.

The first appearance did amaze us.

This reflection of Thomas Traherne follows well on WH Davies’ poetic heels, this May morning.

When Amasis the King of Egypt sent to the wise men of Greece, to know, Quid Pulcherrimum?* upon due and mature consideration they answered, The World. The world certainly being so beautiful that nothing visible is capable of more. Were we to see it only once, the first appearance would amaze us. But being daily seen, we observe it not.

Ancient philosophers have thought God to be the Soul of the World. Since therefore this visible World is the body of God, not His natural body, but which He hath assumed; let us see how glorious His wisdom is in manifesting Himself thereby. It hath not only represented His infinity and eternity which we thought impossible to be represented by a body, but His beauty also, His wisdom, goodness, power, life and glory; His righteousness, love, and blessedness: all which as out of a plentiful treasury, may be taken and collected out of this world.

* What is the most beautiful?

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2 November, All Souls: How soon will all my lovely days be over …

reed bed
One of the joys of the web is access to books that the local library will not have on its shelves.
The Canadian poet Bliss Carman translated Sappho into verse; this poem is a challenge to a believer: like Sappho I am a ‘fragile lamp of clay’. But am I burning with the Light of the World, witness to a great wind from the light?
There may be occasions in this month of November to speak a word of hope to a bereaved neighbour; do not be shy of saying it.
How soon will all my lovely days be over,
And I no more be found beneath the sun,—
Neither beside the many-murmuring sea,
Nor where the plain-winds whisper to the reeds,
Nor in the tall beech-woods among the hills
Where roam the bright-lipped Oreads,* nor along
The pasture-sides where berry-pickers stray
And harmless shepherds pipe their sheep to fold!
For I am eager, and the flame of life
Burns quickly in the fragile lamp of clay.
Passion and love and longing and hot tears
Consume this mortal Sappho, and too soon
A great wind from the dark will blow upon me,
And I be no more found in the fair world,
For all the search of the revolving moon
And patient shine of everlasting stars.
LV Soul” (from “Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics” by Bliss Carman)
*Oreads were wood nymphs.
Start reading it for free: http://amzn.eu/9CjK33P

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2 May: Suspended

.ccant.cath.suspended.

When I went to the Cathedral yesterday I found myself in the nave rather than the crypt. It was still early in the day; the guides and welcomers were just arriving, tidying up their desks and welcoming each other. There were the usual builders’ noises, and someone testing organ pipes: in short, there was the usual silence!

I had time to sit by the font and contemplate the installation ‘Suspended’. The garments hanging above the congregation came from refugees on the Isle of Lesbos or the camps around Calais; clothes they were glad to discard when they were offered a clean change. I hope they found something they liked to wear! Their lives have been suspended between their old homes, destroyed or stolen, and who knows what future.

There the clothes hang, reminding us that these refugees are sisters and brothers of ours, thrown on very hard times, as were others – including perhaps their grandparents – seventy years ago when Pope Pius XII wrote the words we read here yesterday.

Let us follow his call, and pray for peace, and support those who support the refugees.

MMB

 

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13 June, year of Mercy: Mercy in Ruins

mercy.ruin

mercylogoWhen we travel, we hope that when the heat gets too much or we feel hungry and thirsty, God’s Providence may bring us a friendly face and a chance of hospitality. But tourism takes us through areas of ruined classical cities, where once was a lively population and hospitality was likely. However, that population died long ago, and all they have left is the skeleton of a dwelling. This picture reminds me of a similar doorway, to a house which no longer existed, when I visited Athens in my late teens, when a military junta ruled Greece.

I had taken a bus from the airport into Athens in the early hours. By five in the morning it was light, and beginning to be warmer. I had planned to visit the Parthenon before the crowds arrived, so I sat down on the step in front of a doorway like this to gather my wits for the climb up the hill. But there was an old wooden door in the doorway, and this suddenly opened behind me. A fellow traveller, an American I think, emerged, wished me good morning and went on his way. He had slept the night behind a door and a door frame.

It was a comical, theatrical moment, as if an ancient Greek house servant had come back to life to greet me.  Like Silas and St. Paul, I was wondering what signs or messengers might show up in my dreams, to send me off on a more purposeful path.

 

CD.

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12 May, Thursday:Young Witnesses

It is Saint Pancras’ feast today. This was the starting point for this group of blogs. His station now is a place of great beauty, cleaned, restored; endowed with new responsibilities in the shape of European, Kentish and cross-London trains.

Before this great labour of love, inspired by Sir John Betjeman whose statue forever admires the station roof, there was a Greek-owned fish and chip shop in one of the arches on the Euston Road. One day I noticed an ikon of Agios Pankras behind the counter, and pleased the server by reading the title aloud.

As exiles they must have felt close to Pancras, a Greek immigrant to Rome, a teenager caught up in the persecutions, like next month’s martyrs of Uganda. Without wishing martyrdom on any of them, we underestimate our young people and what they could do when challenged. We should recognise that they are fully alive already, and indeed prepared for life’s challenges, so they should be endowed with new responsibilities. Pancras was a martyr at 14, my parents were earning their living at 14. I taught catechism at that age, I took my turn as MC at Mass.

We risk prolonging immaturity and alienation when we extend compulsory education to what must seem like infinity to non-academically minded young people.

At least the Church could offer them a few responsible voluntary ministries, couldn’t it; couldn’t we? And who knows where will they go on to, after helping at our station for a while?

 

MMB.

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