To sing break-heartedly of light
Like dying sunflowers
Gathering to themselves their life,
Defying that which is their source.
Small suns, we grasp your wantonness
And would reverse your death.
Our poorness seize your gold.
But go you must,
Dear small reflections
Of so great a God,
We would you stay.
Sheila Billingsley, August 2019.
The sunflowers are indeed ‘gathering to themselves their life’ as Summer strolls into Autumn. The seed heads will turn to black, attracting the birds when they are hung up in the garden in weeks to come; we cannot seize their gold, but we can remember them, and save a few seeds to reflect God next year.
Sometimes this blog wanders where the Spirit takes us – trusting that we are listening properly – sometimes we have a theme or pattern in mind, causing us to think rather than just feel good and complacent. I, Will, from time to time reread something and ask, Did I really write that? Am I so comfortable as that? And then a paragraph is added, or one is altered or taken away.
Today’s message is, I am sure, one that the Spirit would want us to send out: thank you to all our followers and more occasional readers for reading, and liking, and following us; I write on behalf of all our contributors. It’s good mental and spiritual exercise to produce a concise reflection on a passage from Scripture, a poem, an event from my own life or the news. Please stay with us and send us a ‘like’ or a comment from time to time.
From Rev Jo Richards’ morning updates for the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury. Parish life goes on, despite not getting to choose and see the path. Thank you, Jo, for permission to share your reflections.
Good morning everyone, hope all continue to keep well, as we are here.
Just back from a funeral – this is really tough on so many families, with the social distancing and limited numbers, as it is in so many different spheres of life.
Today I will be reviewing various documents from CofE re cleaning churches and social distancing regulations prior to any further guidance about opening our churches. Nothing further to note, but as and when we are told, we need to be prepared to the best of our ability. That sense of waiting is good to reflect upon, it gives us patience and time to process things. In our ‘normal busy lives’ that sense of patiently waiting can be easily put to one side – that must have now attitude, rather than waiting, and being patient. Looking in the Bible, folk were waiting in the wilderness, and again in exile from Jerusalem. Time and time again people have waited, as we do now, but the time can be well spent – listening to the eulogy at the funeral this morning – make the most of each and every day, whatever it may bring, each and every day is a gift from God.
God Bless you all. and do keep praying, keep connected, and keep safe.
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising.
This passage is still proclaimed by Jewish people in worship, and the Christian church too, brings it into her night prayer, week by week. And we will recognise the ‘greatest commandment of the Law’ that jesus discussed with the lawyer, buut it’s no good being able to recite Scripture ‘by heart’ if God’s word is not deep in our heart.
We begin to see how Scripture calls us to be generous and total in our love of God and each other. Sometimes that call will be a trumpet blast, at others a still small voice. But what sort of God is it that we are called to love? He is not an absentee Creator, but one who continues to form us in love.
Elizabeth again, on the process of writing. Where does the idea come from, how does the writer express it? Kathleen Raine would argue that certain poets, at least, had access to eternal springs that provided the light that led to their words. EBB has the same idea
“Yes, I quite believe as you do that what is called the ‘creative process’ in works of Art, is just inspiration and no less—which made somebody say to me not long since; And so you think that Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ was of the effluence of the Holy Ghost?’—rather a startling deduction, … only not quite as final as might appear to somebodies perhaps. At least it does not prevent my going on to agree with the saying of Spiridion, … do you remember?… ‘Tout ce que l’homme appelle inspiration, je l’appelle aussi revelation*,’ … if there is not something too self-evident in it after all—my sole objection!
And is it not true that your inability to analyse the mental process in question, is one of the proofs of the fact of inspiration?—as the gods were known of old by not being seen to move their feet,—coming and going in an equal sweep of radiance.—And still more wonderful than the first transient great light you speak of, … and far beyond any work of reflection, except in the pure analytical sense in which you use the word, … appears that gathering of light on light upon particular points, as you go (in composition) step by step, till you get intimately near to things, and see them in a fullness and clearness, and an intense trust in the truth of them which you have not in any sunshine of noon (called real!) but which you have then … and struggle to communicate.”
Whatever people call Inspiration, I also call Revelation.
(from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846” by 8Robert Browning)
We have today a Christmas poem from Sister Johanna, calledWhat the choir master’s back knows . It’s set in Canterbury Cathedral, where this ancient picture of our father Adam is in the great west window. Follow the link to a pdf version that preserves the layout and punctuation of Sister’s original.
I have to admit to saluting Adam when facing the west window. He himself is facing east, towards the dawn, the new day, and working as he waits. What do you make of Adam, sister, brother? He is a reminder that we humans are united in one complex family tree with our first parents at the root.
Today is the Feast of Adam and Eve – no, I did not know about it either -and tomorrow is the Birthday of the Second Adam. It is good to know, both from the feast day and from the message of the window artist, that the Church believes Adam is with the Lord. Happy Feast Day, and Happy Christmas for tomorrow!
During the 1930s the British Colonial Office was beginning to grasp its duty to provide education for the young people of Uganda. The overwhelming majority of schools were provided by the Anglican and Catholic churches, but they were receiving some government finance and so subject to inspection by British inspectors working for the Ugandan civil service.
One of these was a Scotswoman that the Anglican Bishop Stuart, who was based at Kampala, complained of. In retirement he recalled how she had turned up to inspect one of his schools, and gave it poor marks and a bad report.
This surprised him, since he knew his schools, and this was a good one. However, on enquiring, he was told that nobody responded to her questions because nobody understood a word she said.
We can reflect in the words of Scotland’s National Poet:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An’ foolish notion.
Robert Burns, To a Louse.
In particular, as parents or teachers, to see ourselves as children see us. We won’t find out by asking them, but by watching them in our presence.
Bishop Cyril Stuart was often at odds with his Christians, but when he retired to Worcester, he and his wife Mary were presented with a ceremonial scroll, on which they were portrayed with dark skin, because they were seen as one with their Ugandan Christian brothers and sisters. His memoirs are in Lambeth Palace Library. (see p 17).
I was surprised to be welcomed at the North Door into the Crypt at Canterbury Cathedral and to have a leaflet thrust into my hand. I barely glanced at it – ‘a place to reflect’ sums up Agnellus’ Mirror’s feelings about this ancient part of the Cathedral – and put it safely in my bag. Reflection is our business in the Mirror, so I promised myself to read it later.
As always, the silence of the Crypt needed to be filtered out of the background noises. Hear each one, Will, then set it aside. Bangings, sawing noises, crane engines and hydraulic lifts: the army of masons, paviours and other tradesmen were about their work, as they always are. Have I ever seen the building without scaffolding somewhere?
Young voices behind me, coming from the nave. School children? Do they whoop and yell? I remembered that at least two little Turnstone chicks, when babes in arms, discovered the acoustics of the nave, and allowed their happy screams to roll around the space, but they were a choir leader’s nightmare. Worth a smile and a prayer for all the younger Turnstones. At least I’d put aside the whoopers, and found silence, undisturbed by comings and goings around me.
When I got up to climb the stairs to the nave, a solid oak door barred the way. I heard an amplified voice speaking, and remembered seeing a young man in academic dress in the street: I realised it must have been a degree ceremony occupying the nave. Whoops and yells are fair enough under the circumstances.
Let’s pray that the graduands enjoyed their day, and always have room in their lives for reflection and silence.
Oh, the leaflet: it is an excellent guide to the crypt. I learnt that there is a Baptismal Font down there in the Holy Innocents’ Chapel which is encouraging: the main font in the Nave has the Royal Coat of Arms over it, which has always seemed inappropriate to me.
When Saint Francis had returned to Saint Mary of the Angels, he sent two of his companions to the said Orlando; who when they were come to him, were received of him with exceeding great joy and charity. And desiring to show them the mount of Alvernia, he sent with them full fifty men-at-arms to defend them from the wild beasts of. the wood, and thus accompanied these brothers climbed up the mountain and searched diligently and at last they came to a part of the mountain that was well fitted for devotion and contemplation; for in that part there was some level ground; and this place they chose out for them and for Saint Francis to dwell therein; and with the help of the men-at-arms that bore them company, they made a little cell of branches of trees: and so they accepted in the name of God, and took possession of the Mount of Alvernia and of the dwelling-place of the brothers on the mountain, and departed, and returned to Saint Francis.
And when they were come unto him, they told him how and in what maimer they had taken a place on the mount of Alvernia, most fitted for prayer and meditation. Hearing these tidings, Saint Francis was right glad, and praising and giving thanks to God, he spake to those brothers with joyful countenance, and said, “My sons, our forty days’ fast of Saint Michael the Archangel draweth near; I firmly believe that it is the will of God that we keep this fast on the mount of Alvernia, which by divine decree hath been made ready for us, to the end that to the honour and glory of God and of His Mother, the glorious Virgin Mary, and of the holy Angels, we may, through penance, merit at the hands of Christ the consolation of consecrating this blessed mountain.”
Last year I wrote about how Abel went with me to post a letter I had written, and he told me, ‘You have to help me.’ He meant I would have to lift him up to reach the slot in the letter box. 15 months on, he can manage that himself.
Today’s post was a party invitation to his uncle; ‘He can’t come without an invitation.’ I wrote out the letters of Uncle George’s name as he looked on. Then he wrote out ‘G e o r g e’ without referring to my script.
It’s interesting to see how many unspoken helps are going on here, Abel helping me, for example, to remember good manners and invite George properly, then writing his uncle’s name for me in his colour of choice; I helping him to print the sheet, showing him where to write and talking him through each letter in turn.
A network of loving your neighbour (or your grandad or grandson) as yourself. Again, as last year, I’ll not spell out all the possible lessons that occur to me, but we are the Body of Christ, and we build up that body by exercising it. And occasionally reflecting on what we are doing.