This is from earlier in the Compleat Angler. Piscator lands a trout, his protege, here still called ‘Viator’ or Traveller, is treated to more of his master’s observations and praise of creation.
Piscator: here is a Trout now, and a good one too, if I can but hold him; and two or three turns more will tire him: Now you see he lies still, and the sleight is to land him: Reach me that Landing net: So (Sir) now he is mine own, what say you? is not this worth all my labour?
Viator. On my word Master, this is a gallant Trout; what shall we do with him?
“But turn out of the way a little, good Scholar, towards yonder high hedge: We’ll sit whilst this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn the verdant Meadows.
Look, under that broad Beech tree I sat down when I was last this way a fishing, and the birds in the adjoining Grove seemed to have a friendly contention with an Echo, whose dead voice seemed to live in a hollow cave, near to the brow of that Primrose hill; there I sat viewing the Silver streams glide silently towards their centre, the tempestuous Sea, yet sometimes opposed by rugged roots, and pibble stones, which broke their waves, and turned them into some: and sometimes viewing the harmless Lambs, some leaping securely in the cool shade, whilst others sported themselves in the cheerful Sun; and others were craving comfort from the swollen Udders of their bleating Dams.
As I thus sat, these and other sighs had so fully possessed my soul, that I thought as the Poet has happily expressed it: I was for that time lifted above earth; And possessed joys not promised in my birth.
Or should I say, an encouragement for pilgrims? This particular stretch of Wales’s Pembrokeshire Coast Path winds down only to go almost straight uphill, or up 121 stairs – I counted them. At the end of the day you can discover how many metres you have climbed overall. If you began at sea-level you will have descended a similar amount. We were not counting.
Fellowship is one of the gifts of pilgrimage, as yesterday’s picture showed us. Christina Rossetti reminds us that in our life-long pilgrimage we have also the support of the Church Triumphant, the saints who have gone before.
And “Yea, beds for all who come”, though “travel-sore and weak.” She does not specifically mention blisters!
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come."
67. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, recognising that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Genesis 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm. 24:1); “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).
68. The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Exodus 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.
69. We are called to recognise that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Psalm 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Proverbs 3:19).The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.
Today we share a passage from Saint Augustine of Hippo’s City of God, 11.8. It is Saint Augustine’s feast day, and it is holiday time, so when better to ask,
What we are to understand of God’s resting on the seventh day, after the six days’ work?
Augustine’s answer to this question may surprise us, coming from a man of the 4th and 5th Centuries. God does not need to rest from toil, as we humans do, for he created all things by his Word – he spake and it was done. So God’s rest is the rest he created for us – and other parts of his creation – and it is part of his plan of creation, even before the Fall. As Augustine says in The Confessions:
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
When it is said that God rested on the seventh day from all His works, and hallowed it, we are not to conceive of it in a childish fashion, as if work were a toil to God, who “spake and it was done,”—spake by the spiritual and eternal, not audible and transitory word. But God’s rest signifies the rest of those who rest in God, as the joy of a house means the joy of those in the house who rejoice, though not the house, but something else, causes the joy.
How much more intelligible is such phraseology, then, if the house itself, by its own beauty, makes the inhabitants joyful! For in this case we not only call it joyful by that figure of speech in which the thing containing is used for the thing contained (as when we say, “The theatres applaud,” “The meadows low,” meaning that the men in the one applaud, and the oxen in the other low), but also by that figure in which the cause is spoken of as if it were the effect, as when a letter is said to be joyful, because it makes its readers so. Most appropriately, therefore, the sacred narrative states that God rested, meaning thereby that those rest who are in Him, and whom He makes to rest.
And this the prophetic narrative promises also to the men to whom it speaks, and for whom it was written, that they themselves, after those good works which God does in and by them, if they have managed by faith to get near to God in this life, shall enjoy in Him eternal rest. This was prefigured to the ancient people of God by the rest enjoined in their sabbath law.
But rest is not idleness: it comes after ‘those good works which God does in and by them’. As we read recently, Thomas Traherne reminds us that, ‘The soul is made for action, and cannot rest till it be employed.’
Let’s pray for the grace to get on with our task in life, and to observe a Sabbath for our soul’s sake, however and whenever circumstances allow.
Having just a fortnight before been looking out at snow in the garden, I was thrilled to have the first days of sitting outside in the sun with a cup of tea.
After a couple of busy months with work I’d decided to treat myself to a Friday off at the end of February. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I vaguely thought I might have a lie-in and listen to ‘Desert Island Discs’ in bed. But when I woke at my usual early hour and looked out of the window I was greeted by the radiant sight of a clear and perfectly round moon on its way down behind the distant trees. From the other side of the house I beheld a deep red sky with the sun beginning to rise. This was no morning for lying in bed. I dressed quickly and went into the street to find that nature had completed its stunning spectacle with a frost, whose delicate shapes I always love to see on the cars. With the birds in full voice it was all quite magical.
Being able to eat my breakfast later on at the bottom of the garden in full sunshine was a total joy. I’ve created a sort of spring bulb lawn near the shed, and was in an ideal vantage point to bask in the glory of clumps of snowdrops, yellow crocuses, purple crocuses and mini daffodils. The sunshine was also creating a beautiful sparkling sheen of water drops on the tips of the just beginning to grow grass. I knew what I had to do that day. I was going to postpone the one or two practical jobs in the house I’d thought I might do and instead get on my bike. There’s a long cycle I did many times last year in the spring and summer that takes me out of Canterbury through various woods to the coast at Herne Bay, then along the seafront to Whitstable. It was the first time this year to follow what had become for me quite a sacred course. It was lunchtime when I got to Whitstable and I stopped at ‘V C Jones’, the chip shop where I often went last year with my youngest Sean son when we were out on our rides. I phoned my order in from outside, as has been the procedure in these days! Disappeared now are the words that were chalked last summer in large colourful letters on the pavement outside V C Jones, ‘As Sting sang, Don’t stand So Close to Me’!
I picked up my scampi and chips and went and found a spot on the beach in full glorious sunshine with my back resting against a groyne. I ate slowly and happily, then took a luxurious siesta on the warm pebbles, followed by a little paddle. The sea was very cold but it felt good, also walking in bare feet on the stones and some isolated strips of sand.
The season of Lent is commonly associated with fasting and abstinence. The word itself comes from the Old English ‘lencten’ which means spring season; and it may also be derived from the Old Germanic ‘lango’, long, and be related to the lengthening of the days which occurs most noticeably and wonderfully at this time.
After a year in which many have died of Covid-19, to simply be alive can feel like a bonus. On a day when I could see and hear and smell the annual miracle of new life springing up so spectacularly all around me, it seemed a particular gift.
The Jesuit Gerry Hughes used to say that he imagined God asking him just one question when he died: “Did you enjoy my creation?” At the start of the spring season it’s difficult not to.
One of my favourite stock images, this heart was left on our step by a neighbour after a gift of homemade preserves. More recently, last summer, five year old Abel found beach pebbles eroded into a heart shape. Months later he discovered one of them and gave it to his mother, ‘because I love you, Mummy.’
A heart of stone, a heart of pebbles, to stand for a flesh and blood heart. This old Irish hymn, translated by Eleanor Hull expresses the mixed emotions of the poet contemplating his or her relationship with Jesus. For many of us life has been a toilsome path these last months, we may well request, ‘Peace on my head, light in my heart.’
Let’s pray for all whose lives continue to be toilsome. Even the dustiest, least frequented church is a sanctified temple; with Christ’s help any of us can be a temple sanctified to him, welcoming those who seek him.
How great the tale, that there should be,
In God’s Son’s heart, a place for me!
That on a sinner’s lips like mine
The cross of Jesus Christ should shine!
Christ Jesus, bend me to thy will,
My feet to urge, my griefs to still;
That e’en my flesh and blood may be
A temple sanctified to Thee.
No rest, no calm my soul may win,
Because my body craves to sin;
Till thou, dear Lord, thyself impart
Peace on my head, light in my heart.
May consecration come from far,
Soft shining like the evening star.
My toilsome path make plain to me,
Until I come to rest in thee.
Eleanor Hull From the Irish
“Stay Awake” is a good Advent Motto and it comes from the mouth of Jesus. We are not simply waiting for a warm, safe commemoration of his birth, though warmth and safety would be welcome this year, but we are preparing for when He comes for us in death. Over to the clear-sighted Sister Johanna.
You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.
I have never been happy with the notion of heaven as sleep nor taken much comfort in the prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.” Paradise as a place of eternal rest makes me think irreverently of mattress advertisements. I sometimes wonder why the idea of rest has settled so firmly into the collection of metaphors we use to refer to eternal life.
These are thoughts I’ve been revisiting as I meditated recently on the text of Matthew quoted at the beginning of this post. When we think of death – if we think of death (mostly we try to avoid doing so) – it is hard to view it with anything other than dread: that moment when we are wrenched out of this painful, but familiar, existence where we are at home, and bundled into the next life – a life of which we have no first-hand knowledge. In this parable, the Lord himself brings up that subject we would rather avoid and refers to himself as the “burglar.” He can only be doing this to try to help us to view our death in another light. What is he trying to tell us?
If we are frequent readers of the gospels, this burglar image may have lost some of its freshness and originality for us. But think about it. That the eternally sinless Son of God should use the metaphor of a thief to describe himself is, along with being slightly humorous, also very unconventional. But, if we decide to take his word for it and think of him for a moment as the thief, then what – or who – is the loot? Well, us. We are what he wants to ‘steal’. And his desire for us is so intense that he likens himself to the lawless burglar, who just wants what he wants what he wants, and whose method is therefore to snatch and run with the goods.
But, if we had been awake, the parable implies, we might have prevented this ‘theft.’ I think the Lord may be employing the literary device of irony here. We cannot, in this life, be ‘awake’ enough to prevent this robbery. He will come. We will die. That is a certainty. But, in light of this parable, in no way is death to be seen as a descent into ‘sleep’. On the contrary, the parable makes me think of my death in terms of a diamond heist, with the Lord as its great mastermind, and maybe ending with a thrilling chase scene, in which he gets away with me, his diamond. One can hardly sleep through that.
The Lord’s words about staying awake, then, encourage us to think about what ‘being awake’ actually means. It strikes me that being awake, as we experience it in this life, has degrees. Awake as the mere opposite of being asleep is perhaps the lowest degree. A bit higher is the idea of conscience: keeping our conscience always ‘awake’ so that we never depart from the way of virtue. Better. But not the best. How about this as the highest level: the experience of love? Don’t we feel most deeply ‘awake’ when we love deeply? This deep love awakens parts of our being that had previously been ‘asleep’ and that we didn’t even realise we had. This must be the key to understanding heaven’s type of awake-ness. So, for me, the Lord’s words about being awake are inseparable from the experience of love. Love will ‘open us up’ as it wakes us up in heaven when God surrounds us and we are filled with his loving life, when we see with his eyes and love with our hearts perfectly attuned to his own heart. We do not know the hour when the ‘burglar’ will break in, snatch us, and wake us up to eternal love. Indeed, we cannot know when. But we can know something about what, about heaven’s fulfilment. We can know something – not everything, but something. We know it, even now, when we are awake in love.
Thank you Sister Johanna, I do agree that ‘resting in peace’ does not reconcile me to Eternity and even playing frisbee with golden crowns would pall after a couple of centuries. Let’s wait in hope and see! Will.
We mentioned Minster Abbey yesterday. Here’s a true story from the Turnstone family archives, going back more years than I can calculate.
One day when Mrs Turnstone was over-tired from sleepless nights with baby Evelyn, I decided to take her on the train to visit the sisters at Minster Abbey with big sister Rosie. While Sisters A & B and I were talking, Rose was demolishing monastic hospitality in the shape of a plateful of custard cream biscuits. They erupted in the middle of the night, undoing the good work of a long siesta for her poor mother! Rose has been off custard creams ever since. It even used to made her feel sick when the train passed through the scent of the biscuit factory on its way into London Bridge!
Is there a moral to this story? Be a better Dad, and give your child only appropriate food, physical, mental and spiritual, and in due season and due quantities. It sounds like one of the easier challenges for a Dad, but …. (No, I can’t blame the sisters!)
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Matthew 24.45
The Catholic Church marks the Day of the Sick on 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The theme this year is “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
In his message, * Pope Francis says that the mercy and comforting presence of Jesus embraces people in their entirety whatever their health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in His life and to experience His tender love.
Jesus Himself became frail, endured human suffering and received comfort from His Father. Only those who personally experience suffering are able to comfort others. “What is needed is a personalized approach to the sick, not just of curing but also of caring, in view of an integral human healing.”
In addition to therapy and support they expect care and attention – “In a word, love”. “At the side of every sick person, there is also a family, which itself suffers and is in need of support and comfort.”
Those who are sick, the Pope says, attract the eyes and heart of Jesus. “The Church desires to become more and more the “inn” of the Good Samaritan who is Christ (Luke 10:34), that is, a home where you can encounter His grace, which finds expression in closeness, acceptance and relief.”
As men and women with their own frailties and illnesses, healthcare workers show how true it is that “once Christ’s comfort and rest is received, we are called in turn to become rest and comfort for our brothers and sisters.”
*Follow the link to the original Vatican News article.
The morning after I’d edited the post from Saint Jane Frances, I woke with this hymn going through my head. It is not a complete answer to the deep distress she was writing about, it is an unsentimental reflection on ‘His words so blest; “All ye that labour come to me, And I will give you rest.”
At times we have to humbly seek new grace and new hope from the Lord, and a new and better heart with which to love God and our neighbour.
1. All ye who seek a comfort sure In trouble and distress, Whatever sorrows vex the mind, Or guilt the soul oppress,
2. Jesus, who gave Himself for you Upon the cross to die, Opens to you His sacred heart; O to that heart draw nigh.
3. Ye hear how kindly He invites; Ye hear His words so blest; “All ye that labour come to me, And I will give you rest.”
4. What meeker than the Saviour’s Heart? As on the Cross He lay, It did His murderers forgive, And for their pardon pray.
5. O Heart, Thou joy of Saints on high, Thou hope of sinners here, Attracted by those loving words To Thee I life my prayer.
6. Wash thou my wounds in that dear Blood, Which forth from Thee doth flow; New grace, new hope inspire, a new And better heart bestow.
Quicumquae certum quaeritis, anon, 17th Century Translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878)