Tag Archives: light
We continue with GKC’s reflections on rain – and Atkinson Grimshaw’s. Today he is in ‘Canny Glasgow’; both yesterday’s picture and today’s are in public domain via Wikipedia.
Indeed this is one of the real beauties of rainy weather, that while the amount of original and direct light is commonly lessened, the number of things that reflect light is unquestionably increased. There is less sunshine; but there are more shiny things; such beautifully shiny things as pools and puddles and mackintoshes. It is like moving in a world of mirrors.
And indeed this is the last and not the least gracious of the casual works of magic wrought by rain: that while it decreases light, yet it doubles it. If it dims the sky, it brightens the earth. It gives the roads (to the sympathetic eye) something of the beauty of Venice. Shallow lakes of water reiterate every detail of earth and sky; we dwell in a double universe.
If we move in a world of mirrors, will we learn to know ourselves better?
From ‘A Miscellany of Men’.
I felt we could benefit from some rain this month. And before anyone gives in to feeling fed up at the very thought of it, here comes a set of reflections in praise of rain by GK Chesterton. And today’s appropriate picture is of Boar Lane in Leeds, by the Leodensian native, Atkinson Grimshaw. Over to GKC.
Sometimes walking upon bare and lustrous pavements, wet under numerous lamps, a man seems a black blot on all that golden looking-glass, and could fancy he was flying in a yellow sky.
But wherever trees and towns hang head downwards in a pigmy puddle, the sense of Celestial topsy-turvydom is the same. This bright, wet, dazzling confusion of shape and shadow, of reality and reflection, will appeal strongly to any one with the transcendental instinct about this dreamy and dual life of ours. It will always give a man the strange sense of looking down at the skies.
I hope the transcendental instinct is alive and well in our readers, leave the umbrella at home!
Last year Sister Johanna insisted we publish this poem by Sheila Billingsley on Easter Sunday. Did it rain that morning? Now I insist you go and read it!
We like a drop of rain at Agnellus Mirror.
From ‘A Miscellany of Men’, available on line and on Kindle.
Truth can be hidden in many ways. We can so easily convince ourselves that we are more important than we are. One example of this is street and even alleyway lighting: there is more of it than we need, and because LED lamps are so economical, councils are loth to risk the ire of people who want the lights on all night. But we don’t need all those lights!
We are none of us so important that we need lights on in our street all through the night, just in case we come home late. And the lights also get in the way of a humbling fact of life: we might realise that we are small, unimportant in the universe, if only we could see the stars!
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. Psalm 8.
I’ve been saving these paragraphs on Astronomy to share with you, from the Vatican Observatory blog, Sacred Space. The writer is Brother Guy Consolmagno of the Observatory.
“Why does the Vatican have an Observatory?” That common question begs the bigger one, why anyone does astronomy. Contrary to what our culture preaches, astronomy doesn’t make you rich, powerful, or sexy. (Maybe that’s why my Jesuit vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience felt so natural.) What astronomy does do, however, is give you the space to contemplate questions bigger than “what’s for lunch?”
Doing science is a way of becoming intimate with creation, and thus with the Creator. The urge to know the truth above all else is common to all scientists, even those who don’t recognize that their devotion to truth is a devotion to God. To me it is an act of prayer.
Image from NASA
From a letter to Saint Francis de Sales, 1614. The two correspondents collaborated closely in the area that straddles today’s Franco-Swiss border. We could see Saint Jane’s mental state as pretty precarious from this letter, but she had raised a family, largely after her husband’s death, and founded the Sisters of the Visitation. Today is her feast day; let all who ever feel desperate take heart and hope from her weariness of self: she more than survived. I am sure this XIX Century engraving does her poor justice. Her letters are at Project Gutenburg.
This morning I am more wearisome to myself than usual. My interior state is so gravely defective that, in anguish of spirit, I see myself giving way on every side. Assuredly, my good Father, I am almost overwhelmed by this abyss of misery. The presence of God, which was formerly such a delight to me, now makes me tremble all over and shudder with fear. I bethink myself that the divine eye of Him whom I adore, with entire submission, pierces right through my soul looking with indignation upon all my thoughts, words and works. Death itself, it seems to me, would be less painful to bear than the distress of mind which this occasions, and I feel as if all things had power to harm me. I am afraid of everything; I live in dread, not because of harm to myself, but because I fear to displease God.
Oh, how far away His help seems! thinking of this I spent last night in great bitterness and could utter no other words than these, “My God, my God, alas! why hast Thou forsaken me.”
At daybreak God gave me a little light in the highest part of my soul, yet only there; but it was almost imperceptible; nor did the rest of my soul and its faculties share the enjoyment, which lasted only about the time of half a Hail Mary, then, trouble rushed back upon me with a mighty force, and all was darkness. Notwithstanding the weariness of this dereliction, I said, though in utter dryness, “Do, Lord, whatever is pleasing to Thee, I wish it. Annihilate me, I am content. Overwhelm me, I most sincerely desire it. Tear out, cut, burn, do just as Thou pleasest, I am Thine.”
God has shown me that He does not make much account of faith that comes of sentiment and emotions. This is why, though against my inclination, I never wish for sensible1 devotion. I do not desire it. God is enough for me. Notwithstanding my absolute misery I hope in Him, and I trust He will continue to support me so that His will may be accomplished in me.
Take my feeble heart into your hands, my true Father and Lord, and do what you see to be wisest with it.
The day after tomorrow we publish a contemporary reflection on ‘all ye that labour come to me’ which provides something of a reply to this letter. Tomorrow a Welsh saint who lived through most of the 17th Century.
1Sensible here means ‘that can be felt’. It is possible to be devoted in practice to someone or to a task without feeling any measurable enthusiasm; which may be our calling for a moment or for years.
How short a while –eternities gone by —
It is since book and candle, half the night,
Consumed the hours, and in the first grey light
I turned and strove for slumber wearily:
But the sad past complained too mournfully,
And wept before me till the dawn grew white;
And the stark future, stripped of all delight,
Loomed up so near — I could but wake and sigh.
Now they are gone. I lie with ungirt will
And unlit candle, sleeping quietly.
Love flows around me with its calm and blessing;
I can but let it take me, and be still,
And know that you, beloved, though far from me,
All night are with me — comforting, caressing.
Let us finish this week with Mary Webb by reading a poem that transcends, rather than denies sorrow. And we can pray that all may feel love’s calm and blessing, flowing around us. Love is not static! It is active, alive now. Delight can return and will.
Last September I promised to return to the hidden Catholic church – hidden in plain view – in Amsterdam. I didn’t expect it to take so long!
Here is one of its treasures. This dove hovers over the sacristy, just above where the priest would have vested for Mass. In itself the carving is a prayer, raised by the sculptor and whoever placed it here. It also invites those who see it to prayer, especially the priest who would be preparing to proclaim the Word.
Here then is a verse from the Pentecost hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus:
O guide our minds with thy blessed light,
With love our hearts inflame;
And with thy strength, which never decays
Confirm our mortal frame.
We can make those words our own this Pentecost, and pray that all pastors and ministers – ourselves included – may have hearts aflame when they go among God’s people.
We see above a pillarbox at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, nicely bringing together two strands of today’s reflection from GK Chesterton’s Heretics. Of course, railway signalmen – and they were men in England a century ago – needed greater vigilance then and could not offload much responsibility onto technology. But both postmen and signalmen had to be men of integrity. Over to GKC:
The word “signal-box” is unpoetical. But the thing signal-box is not unpoetical; it is a place where men, in an agony of vigilance, light blood-red and sea-green fires to keep other men from death. That is the plain, genuine description of what it is; the prose only comes in with what it is called. The word “pillar-box” is unpoetical. But the thing pillar-box is not unpoetical; it is the place to which friends and lovers commit their messages, conscious that when they have done so they are sacred, and not to be touched, not only by others, but even (religious touch!) by themselves. That red turret is one of the last of the temples.
Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable. We think a pillar-box prosaic, because there is no rhyme to it. We think a pillar-box unpoetical, because we have never seen it in a poem. But the bold fact is entirely on the side of poetry. A signal-box is only called a signal-box; it is a house of life and death. A pillar-box is only called a pillar-box; it is a sanctuary of human words.
Not just an excuse to share two favourite photos! But this 19th Century box (at the top VR means Victoria Regina, or Queen Victoria) is at Sabden, Lancashire. Text from Project Gutenberg. It’s no good imagining the Brownings posting their letters into such a box: they were not introduced for some years, although the penny post was speeding letters around the country from 1840. More from the Brownings soon. ‘Heretics’ is available on Kindle or Project Gutenberg.
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.