Yesterday we advocated butterfly’s days: no set agenda, no targets, no business, no busy-ness. Today we open the Book of Common Prayer to read a collect that is complementary to Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘The Butterfly’s Day’. It makes explicit that we are passing through this life, and need God’s guidance and rule to survive passing through things temporal, but we can keep a hold on things eternal with Our Father’s mercy.
Our picture from Saint David’s Cathedral invites us to be still – Emily might say ‘idle’. And knowing that Our Father is God will follow; we will be given a hold on things eternal
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not our hold on things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Doctor Johnson is on his travels in the Isle of Skye, in Autumn of the year 1773. The places named were homes of the local gentry who unfailingly welcomed Johnson and his friend James Boswell.There were no roads on Skye at this time and a trusted guide was absolutely necessary for safety.
More than 200 years later, I cannot help but think of the violence, terror and uncertainty that so many unwilling travellers have experienced in recent months, and the welcome they have received from strangers in their unexpected hour of need. Let us hope and pray that a ‘degree of cheerfulness’ may be granted them through the kindness of others, enabling them to sustain their children and vulnerable dependents.
In our way to Armidel (Armadale) was Coriatachan, where we had already been, and to which therefore we were very willing to return. We staid however so long at Talisker, that a great part of our journey was performed in the gloom of the evening.
In travelling even thus almost without light thro’ naked solitude, when there is a guide whose conduct may be trusted, a mind not naturally too much disposed to fear, may preserve some degree of cheerfulness; but what must be the solicitude of him who should be wandering, among the craggs and hollows, benighted, ignorant, and alone? The fictions of the Gothick romances were not so remote from credibility as they are now thought.
In the full prevalence of the feudal institution, when violence desolated the world, and every baron lived in a fortress, forests and castles were regularly succeeded by each other, and the adventurer might very suddenly pass from the gloom of woods, or the ruggedness of moors, to seats of plenty, gaiety, and magnificence. Whatever is imaged in the wildest tale, if giants, dragons, and enchantment be excepted, would be felt by him, who, wandering in the mountains without a guide, or upon the sea without a pilot, should be carried amidst his terror and uncertainty, to the hospitality and elegance of Raasay or Dunvegan.
Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland by Samuel Johnson.
We pray that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance.
Mrs Turnstone and I took pride in being around for our children. Then they started to grow up, and we had to as well! Actually, it was often the children who accompanied their parents with love, respect and guidance.
Love: how about breakfast in bed sometime before 6.00 a.m. – dry cereal in a sardine can, because the pre-schoolers could not heave the milk down from the fridge, and the can did duty for various games, usually as a doll’s bed.
Respect: as in wanting to go to work, gardening with one or the other parent, doing as we did.
Guidance: for example, shaking their father, guilty of falling asleep while reading bedtime stories, or dictating a dress code: If you ever come to school in that coat again …
Trivial examples which point to the love, respect and guidance there should be within the family. Sometimes it’s difficult: ‘Will,’ one mother said to me, ‘Annie is the first of my four kids to do exams. I can’t help her because I never did them either.’ Such families are often honestly doing their best and need support, not condemnation.
Let us remember them this month. Perhaps it’s as well exams were scrapped this year because of the corona virus!