Tag Archives: Japan

7 April: what do they see?

Not many Canterbury citizens would pause for a photograph here! I have cropped away some of the street furniture on this corner, but there are still bollards, a bin, contradictory road signs and a public toilet block. Oh, and a cherry tree.

A cherry tree so laden with blossom that these Japanese people have stopped to take each other’s photographs, despite the clutter. They see something we pass by on the other side.

There is beauty in places where we’d never look; sometimes it breaks out and hits us between the eyes. Sometimes we can be shown beauty by a friend, or as here, by complete strangers.

We will soon be celebrating the Man of Sorrows, ‘so disfigured that he seemed no longer human’.(Isaiah 52:14). Let’s cut away the clutter and stand beneath the Tree of Life. Cherry blossom will not take away the horror and evil in this world, and it seems that all we can offer to help is the wiping with a face cloth, the cup of water or vinegar, the money in the collecting bucket.

Let’s not scorn to offer such support, the Works of Mercy; it makes a difference, reminds people that we are one family, sharing one earthly home. There’s something about cherry blossom that touches the Japanese soul: my nephew saw Japanese people photographing each other beneath cherry trees; my wife saw the same in Rome some years ago. It’s a deep sign of home.

The Cross is a deep sign of home, in Heaven for Eternity; through suffering we can be one with the Man of Sorrows who will be lifted up; with him we shall see the light and be content.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Lent, Mission, Spring

December 26: A privilege?

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I was not going to buy anything from the expensive catalogue, but one headline took my eye:

Few things in life are a privilege to give and receive.

Complete with full stop, to suggest that the whisky concerned must be as perfect as the grammar.

Hang on, I thought, that’s rubbish!

A Japanese friend counted it a privilege to buy our daughter’s first shoes: to us it was a privilege to receive them. Rings. Embraces. Musical performances. A child’s painting. A plant grown from seed or cutting. A birthday cake. Care for a frail person.

You can add to the list, and please do. ‘It is in giving that we receive.’ To be alive and able to give and receive is itself a privilege. To be able to love.

To share in Jesus’ humanity and his divinity is the ultimate privilege: freely you have received, so freely give.

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Saint Stephen gave his life, as we remember today.

Happy Christmas from all at Agnellus’ mirror!

WT.

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December 24: Is Yours a Metal or a plastic Christmas Tree?

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I guess your Christmas tree is now indoors and decorated? Perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a metal one would be Tanzania. This story comes from the Missionaries of Africa  and is by Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr. 

When I visited for the first time the M.Afr. house in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, [now called Atiman House] in the 1960’s, I saw in the courtyard a sort of metal Christmas-tree and wondered what one would be using it for. The top was 1.5 m high or more, and it had some 50 upending branches. The amused confreres explained that one used it to drip-dry wine-bottles after having been cleansed and rinsed. But in those days they rarely used it anymore.

The house was the procure, or distribution centre for the missions, and imported the Mass-wine and table-wine for upcountry. In addition to individual bottles one used damjan [= dame-jeanne], bottles of  + 20 litres in a wickerwork basket. Later on drums of 100 litres were used, which were bottled in the respective diocesan headquarters.

Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr.

Father Marien’s story left me wondering at the effort that went into making sure there was enough wine for Mass so far from any vineyards, but grapes have been grown in Tanzania since soon after he arrived there. So maybe the Christmas tree is not needed at Atiman House.

We use a modern version of this once or twice a month at L’Arche Kent. Some readers may remember that it has among its activities a small brewery project. It is hoped to make this into a commercial micro brewery in God’s good time.
Unlike most UK brewers, we recycle bottles. They go through various washing and sterilising processes and are hung out to dry on this handsome red plastic Christmas tree. These are all jobs that core members of the community can do without constant, overpowering supervision, and which they take pride in.
One of our brewers, Paul, recently took some bottles to Japan on a visit to the community there.

Happy Christmas to all,

Maurice, Will and all the team.

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, L'Arche

Through New Eyes

near Preston

We used to sing, ‘When every eye shall see Thee / In deity revealed.’ Moses only saw ‘the back of God’ for a few moments on top of the mountain, a sight too awesome for anyone else, until we learn to see.

Centuries after Moses, for a few moments on top of the mountain, three apostles saw Jesus transfigured. Too awesome for Peter at the time but after the resurrection, as Jesus had suggested, the vision made sense.

Recently I received a minor revelation, not on a mountain top, but on top of a bus – not the Oxford one where C.S. Lewis had a personal epiphany, but the East Kent No 6 to Canterbury. In the front seats were a middle-aged Japanese couple and their teenage daughter; I’d guess father or mother or both were visiting academics, since they later got off at the university. Their daughter was the unwitting angel of revelation for me. She stood up, wrapped her arm around the grab rail, and took a rapid series of photographs. ‘There she goes’, I thought. ‘They love their cameras.’

She sat down, enthusiastically sharing the pictures with her mother. Through new eyes she had seen a place I had passed hundreds of times, seeing and not seeing.

If I need a revelation to see my home county, it’s time to pray, ‘Lord that I may see’, and learn to see Him or his angel, even on top of a bus.

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