Ever notice crows
walk like cow-boys,
toes in, wide stride,
tough guys of the garden?
from a distant tree – safe
they think. I watch
from the window over
the kitchen sink.
crows must hatch, wet, needy
and fragile, like other birds,
but now full grown, I half expect
my crow to chew tobacco and spit,
he seems so full of bravado,
compared to prissy little tits.
Does size mean power?
A swagger, a loud caw?
Animals seem to think so.
Tag Archives: music
Lines: only five
evenly spaced and ongoing
there is always room in the universe
for infinity’s seed to germinate, and on the left
of the five lines, the treble sign, inward and reverent,
moves roundly, a pregnant woman, her sweet baby coiled
in her sheltered space: music of life, notes tip-toe on their lines
and spaces, sharps, flats, trills and runs patter and boom, blooming and falling.
Within my heart a little sorrow crept
And wept, and wept.
Below the lilt of happiest melodies
I heard his sighs,
And cried–‘You little alien in my heart,
Amid the loud, discordant sounds of fate,
I listening wait–
Not hoping that a song can reach my ear:
But just to hear
That little weeping grief I once bade cease
Would now be peace.
Mary Webb wrote bravely from the heart. Sorrow below the lilt of happiest melodies: she knows of what she writes.
I usually skim read the football writing in the newspaper, but this article was different. The writer was complaining that the fans at a major final were unable to sing their anthems with their usual spontaneity. When they would normally be raising their voices together before the game, there was a pop band playing. There was music during the game too, and after goals were scored: the right tunes, but not fan generated; he felt excluded.
As annoying as canned music in the supermarket, suggested Mrs Turnstone.
Or in churches, I suggested. ‘Even Taizé chants can be annoying at the wrong time’, she said.
I would add plain chant to that list. Please, no piped music in church! If we are representative of anyone other than ourselves, we feel excluded by it. We don’t find it welcoming, or prayerful, or conducive to inner silence, or even outer silence in terms of visitors being guided towards speaking quietly to each other. Let the church speak for itself!
L’Arche Syria meet to sing and pray
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.
Those who are preparing the pilgrimage keep telling ourselves: it’s all coming together!
There was, when I wrote this,still a month before the pilgrims put foot to footpath which was just as well. Catering, comfort breaks, car rides for the weary, climbing up the Downs, covering the route step by step; all this preparation allows the real purpose of the pilgrimage to be fulfilled. And in real life, today is the day we make that first step!
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
We are a community: part of the closer walk with Jesus is walking with each other. We know that Jesus and his disciples did a lot of walking around Palestine, and sometimes the disciples’ conversation was far from edifying. Jesus had to rebuke Mrs Zebedee when she wanted him to give James and John top posts in his new government, and to remind the disciples – who had been arguing on the road about who was the greatest – that the greatest of all must be the servant of all.
No wonder he was glad to play with the children at the end of the day!
There will be many opportunities for each of us to serve our fellow walkers during our four days on the road. This time of preparation has been itself a time of service.
We hope to say more about the pilgrimage itself in the days to come.
The Crest of a Wave monument marks the start of the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury and the Channel Swim to France. Let’s hope for blue skies as we walk!
We owe to Venerable Bede, whose feast was the day before yesterday, the stories that bring Augustine of Canterbury alive. So far as we know, Bede (d.735) was a stay-at-home scholar and monk, who lived in monasteries around Sunderland but corresponded with popes and fellow scholars across Europe. He perhaps understood some of Augustine’s great reluctance to leave Rome for England.
Despite his dilly-dallying, Augustine made it to Canterbury in 597, at the repeated and insistent order of Pope Gregory, following the invitation of King Ethelbert and his Christian wife, Bertha the Queen. She had taken over the old Roman church of Saint Martin on the edge of the city where her chaplain celebrated the Eucharist for her and her French entourage.
Now Augustine met Ethelbert a few miles away, near where Minster Abbey is today, the home of Sister Johanna, our writer.
Bede tells us:
they came endued with Divine, not with magic power, bearing a silver cross for their banner, and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a board; and chanting litanies, they offered up their prayers to the Lord for the eternal salvation both of themselves and of those to whom and for whom they had come.
When they had sat down, in obedience to the king’s commands, and preached to him and his attendants the Word of life, the king answered: “Your words and promises are fair, but because they are new to us, and of uncertain import, I cannot consent to them so far as to forsake that which I have so long observed with the whole English nation. But because you are come from far as strangers into my kingdom, and, as I conceive, are desirous to impart to us those things which you believe to be true, and most beneficial, we desire not to harm you, but will give you favourable entertainment, and take care to supply you with all things necessary to your sustenance; nor do we forbid you to preach and gain as many as you can to your religion.”
Accordingly he gave them an abode in the city of Canterbury, which was the metropolis of all his dominions, and, as he had promised, besides supplying them with sustenance, did not refuse them liberty to preach. It is told that, as they drew near to the city, after their manner, with the holy cross, and the image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they sang in concert this litany: “We beseech thee, O Lord, for Thy great mercy, that Thy wrath and anger be turned away from this city, and from Thy holy house, for we have sinned. Hallelujah.”
Antonela’s picture shows Augustine baptising the King from a window in St Martin’s church. Bede’s text from Project Gutenberg.
I wonder what Tyndale the Terrier will make of it all. He’s named after a great Christian communicator, the translator of the Bible into English, but our Tyndale has rather less intellectual enthusiasms. He’s the one who greets Anne by wagging his tail, but also sniffing around for the dog biscuit she sometimes has about her person. Dogs never miss a chance of a snack: it’s as if they don’t believe they will ever be fed again.
There are, of course, many chances of a morsel falling a dog’s way when a group of people pause to eat together (Matthew 15:26). Tyndale will be busy clearing up crumbs until his master calls a halt.
Each of us has our own gluttony, but I hope and trust that we will find food for all the senses on this walk; food that will build up our souls and our friendships. Even aches and pains, weariness and blisters tell us that we are alive!
Our prayers on the march will include a ‘dog lead’ – reflections on Tobit and Matthew 15. A good dog is not one spelt backwards, but can lead or shepherd us to where we ought to be.
Follow the link to the story of the disciples’ dog on Easter Sunday.
When coming away from my regular visit to one of our Irish Chaplaincy Seniors I was reflecting on how uplifted I felt and how it had to do, in part, by how much we had laughed during the visit. This particular lady is only in her 70s but has fairly advanced dementia, and her sister moved over from Ireland to stay in the one-bedroom flat as a live-in carer. It’s a challenging situation but we always regale one another with funny stories, and we hoot with laughter.
I’ve been enjoying a book by James Martin, the American Jesuit, called ‘Between Heaven and Mirth’ with the sub-title ‘Why joy, humour and laughter are at the heart of the spiritual life’. He speaks of the importance of humour, especially in religious settings, which can easily become terribly serious and joyless. I imagine, sadly, that there are many people who might consider laughter to be incompatible with church or religion. And I was interested to see in a recent survey in the Church of England that people didn’t want their priests to be cracking lots of jokes in their sermons! It’s true that humour doesn’t really come across in the gospels. I fear this is a case of jokes getting lost in translation (besides the notion that religion is a ‘serious business’) because I like to think that the stories of Jesus were filled with humour and hilarity, and that he liked nothing better than to have a good laugh with some of the dodgy characters he hung out with.
I still remember the words of my dear friend Tony (and the jokes he told) in his best man speech at my wedding. He reminded us that the words ‘humour’, ‘humility’ and ‘human’ all come from the Latin word ‘humus’ which means earth and ground, so that when we laugh we are connected in a particular way with the ground we walk upon and with those we walk with. It could be said indeed that a sure sign of a growing connection and intimacy with another person is the ability to laugh together. Physiologically, as well, it’s healthy for us to laugh. A good, hearty laugh can relieve physical tension and stress and leave the muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. It boosts the immune system, decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, therefore improving resistance to disease. It also reduces blood pressure and releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Laughter is almost as good for the body as going to the gym! And it doesn’t cost a penny in membership! I remember at one time somebody in the NHS having the idea to send comedians into hospitals to help patients to laugh but sadly it doesn’t seem to have caught on.
And talking of funny people, I was tickled to hear what happened when John Cleese met the Dalai Lama. They didn’t say a word to one another but simply broke into spontaneous and prolonged laughter! James Martin tells us in his book that the Trappist monk and prolific spiritual writer Thomas Merton could be identified by visitors to his monastery in Kentucky (at a time, in the 1960s, when there were 200 monks there) because he was the one who was always laughing. And one of the many nice stories in the book concerns Mother Theresa from the time when John Paul II was pope and creating loads of new saints. A young sister asked what she would have to do in her life to achieve sainthood. Mother Theresa replied “die now; this pope’s canonising everyone”!
This season of Lent is perhaps not readily associated with fun and frivolity. Yet, in the scripture readings from Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent we have Jesus warning us (Matthew 6) not to look miserable when we fast; and we are reminded of the words from Isaiah 58 of the kind of fast that is pleasing to God:
“Let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke;
Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor”
And I would add, try and have a bit of a laugh with people as well. It’s one of the things that most profoundly binds us together in our common humanity.
As she was going out to choir practice one evening in February, Mrs T said, ‘While I’m out you can play any music you like.’ Temptation: I can’t usually get away with Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, for example. Mrs T says that’s fine for the Cathedral, but not for the kitchen or living room. But I was baking and did not want to be changing discs with floury hands, so opted for Through the Night on BBC Sounds.
Brahms was giving me music while I worked when I stopped and listened and paused the music. ‘Our’ blackbird – the one we had last year, with the white chevron on his head – was singing in a neighbour’s fir tree. I left the door open and enjoyed his repertoire until another blackbird’s alarm call silenced him.
I was reminded of my distracted thought at Mass. The image of starlings murmurating, flying in ever changing formation, merged into ‘O filii et filiae’ of Eastertime. Here are the words. As for musical fireworks, I found the recordings below – no need to choose between the blackbird and the choir, enjoy them both! And Happy Easter: Christ is risen, Alleluia!
1. O filii et filiae,
Rex caelestis, Rex gloriae, morte surrexit hodie, alleluia.
2. Et mane prima sabbati,
3. Et Maria Magdalene,
4. In albis sedens Angelus,
5. Et Joannes Apostolus
6. Discipu lis adstantibus,
7. Ut intellexit Didymus,
8. Vide, Thoma, vide latus,
9. Quando Thomas Christi latus,
10. Beati qui non viderunt,
11. In hoc festo sanctissimo
12. De quibus nos humillimas
|1. O sons and daughters of the King, Whom heavenly hosts in glory sing, Today the grave has lost its sting! Alleluia!
2. That Easter morn, at break of day,
The faithful women went their way
To seek the tomb where Jesus lay. Alleluia!
3. And Mary Magdalene,
4. An angel clad in white they see,
5. And the Apostle John
6. That night the apostles met in fear;
7. When Thomas first the tidings heard
8. “My pierced side, O Thomas, see,
9. No longer Thomas then denied;
10. How blest are they who have not seen
11. On this most holy day of days
12. For which we humbly
RSPB recording of blackbird’s song
Choir of Notre Dame de Paris O filii et filiae
Picture from SJC