Tag Archives: peace

9 June; Of Syllables and Steps, Singing and Silence: II

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There is a moment of truth in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when the latent emotions of the rude mechanicals’ play emerge to touch their audience at the wedding feast. At Mass there should be moments of truth. Despite the crooked translation, it is for ministers, to the best of their ability, to speak the words, to love the Word as though it were alive, as though they believe it, as though it were awesome; from ‘In the Name of the Father’ by way of ‘The Word of the Lord’, ‘Through your goodness’, ‘This is my Body’, ‘the Body of Christ’ (looking the communicant in the eye), to ‘Go in Peace’. A challenge, truly.

There are moments in liturgy as in life, when silence can and should be observed:

Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another —

Let us hold hands and look.”

She, such a very ordinary little woman;

He, such a thumping crook;

But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels

In the teashop’s ingle-nook.

John Betjeman, ‘In a Bath Teashop’

Silence can bring focus and awe: when I led Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the parish Mass I used to ask my ‘very ordinary’ child readers to count to ten in their heads to allow reflection between the bidding – let us ask God to …, and its prayer – Lord hear us.

Silence between the consecration and the acclamation; silence before inviting everyone to join in the Lord’s Prayer, silence after communion: these can inspire a sense of awe. All should participate in these silences, unlike the silence of the old rite with the priest mumbling prayers and not really silent at all, and the congregation praying the Rosary.

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8 May: VE Day, The Cherry Trees.

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

Edward Thomas

This is a war poem. All Edward Thomas’s poems were written with the Great War in the background, here we have loaded words, shedding, dead, followed by the hammer blow, ‘There is none to wed.’ The men were gone to war, as he was going, never to return.

The cherry trees in Thomas’s day would have been like these, with sheep, swine or geese grazing under them. The fruit would have been picked using a wooden ladder, tapering at the top to get between branches, but you could walk between and beneath the trees. The orchard is a fortnight or so before its flowering time, but the ornamental cherry at Saint Mildred’s, Canterbury, was shedding petals this week, strewing the grass.

No weddings this May, due to the corona virus. Edward Thomas could have been writing for us but his wife Helen was an appreciative reader, saying proudly that he found beauty where other people could not see it.

On this VE Day let’s pray for eyes to see the flowers of the field in all their divine glory. Let’s be thankful for all that has been done, these past 75 years, to bring peace to Europe, reconciling former enemies, and over the last 30 years, remedying some of the harm done by the Iron Curtain. Let us pray that peace and understanding will continue growing despite the setbacks of recent times.

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3 January, Praying with Pope Francis: for Peace.

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Pope Francis invites us to pray this month that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote peace and justice in the world. 

The prophet Zechariah wrote about the peace the Lord can give (8: 4-5):

 Thus saith the Lord of hosts: There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem: and every man with his staff in his hand through multitude of days. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls, playing in the streets thereof.

The people of Warsaw can hardly have expected a scene like this when their city was devastated during World War II. Old men and women, girls and boys, and a very un-Biblical ice cream stall! But Zechariah does go on to say (v12):

There shall be the seed of peace: the vine shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew: and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

It is God that gives all the blessings of the earth to his people. But it is for us to share and promote his peace (vv 16-17):

These then are the things which you shall do: Speak ye truth every one to his neighbour: judge ye truth and judgment of peace in your gates. And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his friend: and love not a false oath: for all these are the things that I hate, saith the Lord.

There is no magic ‘peace fairy’; judging truth and peace needs hard thinking and openness to the Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you will renew the face of the earth.

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18 December. The ruined chapel, II: in the nearby church and in Uganda.

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On November 16th we visited an abandoned Methodist chapel. Albert’s comment on that post brought to mind the nearby Anglican church of which this is a feature. To make a sweeping generalisation, in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Anglicans had churches, while Dissenters – Protestants who for various reasons did not accept all the traditions of Anglicanism – worshipped in buildings called chapels; that was the case here at the 12th Century church of Saint Bartholomew, right on the Shropshire-Hereford boundary.

This wooden cabin inside the church is actually a family pew for local gentry. There would have been cushions and footwarmers provided for their comfort at this time of year. Small wonder that the poor people of the parish went elsewhere, especially if they heard proclaimed these words of James Chapter 2.

ruined chapel

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

It need not be that way. During the 1930s in Uganda, there was a great deal of unexamined racism with Europeans holding themselves aloof from the locals. They would even expect to go to Communion first in Rubaga Cathedral. One man who stood out against this was Sir Joseph Sheridan, Chief Justice of East Africa. Not only did he mix with the Africans at Communion, unlike other Europeans, he also processed barefoot at the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday.

It is not just at Church that we are challenged to choose the ‘option for the poor’, though that is a good place to start. Catholics were not invited to share the sign of peace at Mass until the 1960s, but we should assert our membership of Jesus’ family by sharing it with whomsoever we are near, and maybe exchanging a word with them after Mass. People who feel cold-shouldered by congregations today may well just fade away, and not go looking for a congregation that welcomes and suits them.

But a conversation with a lonely person, a few cheerful or sympathetic words with the person on the checkout or in front of us in a queue. There are many people poor in ways other than financial.

 

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2 December: Reminder, Carol Service tomorrow

We recently posted a notice for the Amos Trust Carol Service in Canterbury in aid of peace making in  Palestine.

This service will be tomorrow, 3 December, from 19:00 – 21:00, at St Paul’s Church, Canterbury CT1 1NH.

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off at St Paul’s in Canterbury, where we’ll be joined by Sami Awad from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem plus special guest performers.

Sami is a leading Palestinian peace activist who will be explaining why non-violence is at the heart of the Christmas message and of his family in Gaza. All proceeds will go to our 2019 Christmas appeal for our partners in Gaza and the home and peace-building work of Holy Land Trust.

Please join us.

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28 November: the Amos Trust Carol Service in Canterbury

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off in Canterbury on Tuesday, 3 December, from 19:00 – 21:00 at St Paul’s Church, CT1 1NH

 

 

About this Event

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off at St Paul’s in Canterbury, where we’ll be joined by Sami Awad from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem plus special guest performers.

Sami is a leading Palestinian peace activist who will be explaining why non-violence is at the heart of the Christmas message and of his family in Gaza. All proceeds will go to our 2019 Christmas appeal for our partners in Gaza and the home and peace-building work of Holy Land Trust.

Please join us.

The tour will be part of Ahlan Gaza, our new campaign that aims to share stories of life in the Gaza Strip. Join us and our very special guests as we turn our hearts and minds to Gaza to start the Christmas season.

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27 November: When morning gilds the skies.

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A couple of weeks ago, this was the sight when I opened the curtains. (I had already been downstairs a little while, I’m not always such a late riser!) The golden light, filtered by the birch leaves was lovely indeed, an invitation to get out into the air.

And a call to prayer as vocal in its way as Great Dunstan or Harry, the chief bells of Canterbury Cathedral. I am reminded again of Edward Caswall’s verse which we shared in April:

When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

I hope you have enjoyed the gilded skies and landscapes of Autumn, if you live in the temperate Northern Hemisphere; may you have peace in your heart and home as you go through Advent and prepare to praise the infant Jesus Christ.

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24 November: The King VIII, What I Have Written.

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On the feast of Christ the Universal King, we are privileged to being you the final part of Sister Johanna’s reflections on the dialogue between Pontius Pilate, representing the Power of this world and Jesus with his spiritual power.

Pilate’s final act in Jesus’ regard is as enigmatic and confusing as anything that has ever occurred in the gospels. He affixes a notice to Jesus’ cross reading ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.’ Why? Why can’t Pilate leave it alone now? Why doesn’t he retreat back into his palace after his sentencing of Jesus, away from all the turmoil? Why does Pilate watch Jesus’ final journey to Golgotha carrying his cross, and then turn up himself at Golgotha? The notice was nailed to the cross just before it was raised, or possibly afterwards – the text isn’t clear. Why was Pilate still there? Did he feel that he had unfinished business? Was he ambivalent about the sentence he had passed? Or did he simply want to have the last word, now that Jesus was nearly dead, and probably unable to say anything more?

In light of our reflections, it is not possible to interpret Pilate’s notice as a sincere gesture of sorrow, nor would it represent an awareness, coming too late, of Jesus’ true kingship in a religious sense. None of Pilate’s actions at any point in Jesus’ trial or crucifixion suggest that Pilate ever grasps the true meaning of Jesus’ words and person. Nor does it seem to me to be one last attempt by Pilate to make Jesus’ enemies see the incongruity between their vision of Jesus as a political usurper and the actual appearance of Jesus in all his brokenness on the cross, undergoing a criminal’s death. By now, Pilate is fed up with the Jewish chief priests (see John 19:21-22).

But I do think that the notice nailed to the cross represents a confession of sorts on Pilate’s part. Although Pilate sees that Jesus was no threat to his position as governor, Jesus was very much a threat to Pilate as a man and human being. Where Pilate was a shallow human being, Jesus in every word and action was a man of depth. Where Pilate would change his ideological position according to his assessment of its usefulness in gaining the right friends, Jesus was a man whose actions were always consistent with his public teaching and his deepest aspirations, his sense of identity and his mission. Where Pilate was confused, Jesus was clear-headed and calm. Where Pilate tried to win support from the crowd to bolster his position and reinforce his sense of self, Jesus was completely autonomous with reference to public opinion. Jesus was able to express who he was and what he stood for in brilliantly concise terms. Pilate had spent his entire life trying to play one side against the other, lying, flattering, bragging, unable to imagine his existence without the trappings of power. And yes, Pilate was power-hungry and insecure. He could never get enough power, never enough to feel whole and at peace. Jesus also had a kind of hunger. Pilate sensed it. But Jesus was not hungry for power. He was hungry for souls, he hungered to awaken our hunger for him. Pilate was out for all he could get. Jesus was there to give us everything he had, his very life, for our salvation. He longed for us to turn to him, but he never forced it.

I believe that some of this dawned on Pilate as Jesus was led away to be crucified. The sniffer-dog in Pilate began to find a kind of power in Jesus that Pilate had not imagined even existed. He realised that Jesus, because of the integrity of his being, did not have power as other men have it – because other men’s power was the kind of power that could be lost. Jesus would never lose his power because he was power. And he was power because he was truth. There was no disorder in Jesus, no ‘parts’ of Jesus that did not spontaneously cleave to and express truth. This was a human power that was much greater than any power Pilate himself had ever encountered in anyone, or would ever be able to possess himself, and he knew it.

In the end, Pilate was thoroughly frightened by this, but he recognized Jesus’ power for what it was, and knew that Jesus’ force in the world would transcend every power structure that had ever existed or ever would exist. Pilate found that this Jesus, this Nazarene, was indeed a king. He was king of the Jews, and king of much more. He was, in every sense, a threat to Pilate’s person and personality. Jesus was king as Pilate would never be. As no man would ever be. Pilate is clear now. Jesus must be crushed. This Nazarene, this king of the Jews, must die.

 

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November 22: The King VI, Back to Pilate.

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Pilate is trying to finish with this troubling case. But he cannot shake it; it goes on and on. At the suggestion of releasing Jesus, the crowd erupts into violent, near-riot behaviour. They begin to scream for Jesus’ death. It becomes clear to Pilate that there is no ‘sane majority’, and no one wants this Jesus to be released. They want Barabbas, the thief and murderer, to be set free, not Jesus. Yet it is also Pilate’s opinion that Jesus is nothing more than a preacher, with no political aspirations at all. What is going on? Pilate is a superstitious man and he is beginning to feel odd (see John 19:8). What gods are frowning here, skewing this situation? His scalp is tingling with a weird anxiety that makes his blood run cold. He feels caught up in something uncanny, even preternatural.

Pilate tries to satisfy the crowd’s blood-lust by having Jesus taken to be scourged. Afterwards, the soldiers torture him psychologically and physically by mockery, and by making thorn branches into a crown and forcing it down on his head; they put a purple robe on him and make exaggerated bows before him, saying ‘Hail King of the Jews,’ He is slapped in the face. But it is still not enough for the crazed crowd. Pilate does not particularly like Jesus, but even less does he like the way things are going. He knows that whatever happens, the situation has become big enough to be talked about and remembered afterwards. He is anxious about how this will affect his reputation. Pilate tries again. He says to the crowd, ‘Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case against him.’ And Jesus is brought out in his now physically weakened and bloodied condition, dressed in the purple robe and wearing the thorn-crown. Jesus says nothing. Pilate says, ‘Here is the man.’ Instead of being moved by Jesus’ brokenness and his manifest harmlessness, the crowd’s thirst for Jesus’ death intensifies, and their shouts for his execution increase in volume and violence.

Now Pilate’s pulse really begins to race. The situation continues to feel eerie to him. His fears increase, as the text says (19:8). He calls Jesus to him again in private and probably peers at him intensely. Anyone else in Jesus’ position would have one objective only: to save his own skin. But Jesus is astonishingly serene. What is this man about, Pilate wants to know? Jesus waits. Pilate obscurely detects the existence of a conflict on a level he is not accustomed to dealing with. He has rarely, if ever, taken seriously matters pertaining to the spirit world and is completely lost now.

Where do you come from?’ Pilate finally asks. His question doesn’t really make sense. He knew that Jesus was from Nazareth. But Pilate has begun to realise that Jesus is entirely different from the man he thought Jesus was. Pilate is thrashing about in the sea of his mind, grasping at anything that seems to float, struggling with waves of deep perplexity and dread.

SJC

 

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8 November: Praying with Pope Francis: Dialogue and Reconciliation

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Pope Francis’s Missionary Intention this month is:

Let us pray that a spirit of dialogue, encounter, and reconciliation may emerge in the Middle East, where diverse religious communities share their lives together.

What can I do with these stones? I could throw them at anyone who got too close to me or my possessions or my part of the beach.

I could use them to make a pathway in my garden, or across country for people to walk over. I could use them as filler in a drystone or concrete wall, providing shelter for people or beasts.

I could go down to the tideline and start a game of ducks and drakes, skimming them across the surface of the sea, splashing over the waves. People would hardly need an invitation to join in, the game is infectious. Like football (soccer) on a smaller scale. Every nation wants to be involved in the football World Cup even if they can barely hope to win one game.

Playing games, playing music, sharing meals together can help bring about a spirit of dialogue, encounter and reconciliation as much as high level talks between politicians who barely trust one another.

But even sport can be tainted by spectators’ hatred and racist abuse, when they could be admiring the beauty of the players’ skills, sharing the thrills of the game.

Is there room for God’s Spirit somewhere in there?

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