The church had imposing monuments, emphasising the worldly wealth that was Venice’s, but what struck me was this carving of Christ on Easter Morning, watched over by a Guardian Angel, a serenely happy angel indeed. But Jesus maybe does need an eye kept on him, He looks as though he is not at all used to his risen body, see how he’s feeling the wound in his side; it’s bleeding as though he were alive.
The English Easter gardens, from a village in Northumberland, Canterbury Cathedral, and Saint Mildred’s Church nearby, are unpopulated so far as we can see, but just as with Doctor Johnson the other day, we can feel God’s presence.
When I helped at Children’s Masses, some of them enacted Mary, John and Peter going to the tomb, and finding no-one. We then unrolled a poster saying ‘Jesus is nowhere’, because they did not find him. The priest had to take a pair of scissors to it, so that it read, ‘Jesus is now here’. Our daily challenge for mission is to live as though that’s true. Which it is!
On the eve of his death, Jesus prayed for the unity of those the Father gave him: “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe”. Joined to him, as a branch is to the vine, we share the same sap that circulates among us and vitalizes us.
Each tradition seeks to lead us to the heart of our faith: communion with God, through Christ, in the Spirit. The more we live this communion, the more we are connected to other Christians and to all of humanity. Paul warns us against an attitude that had already threatened the unity of the first Christians: absolutising one’s own tradition to the detriment of the unity of the body of Christ. Differences then become divisive instead of mutually enriching. Paul had a very broad vision: “All are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Cor 3:22-23).
Christ’s will commits us to a path of unity and reconciliation. It also commits us to unite our prayer to his: “that they may all be one. . .so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
“Never resign yourself to the scandal of the separation of Christians who so readily profess love for their neighbour, and yet remain divided. Make the unity of the body of Christ your passionate concern.”
[The Rule of Taizé in French and English (2012) p. 13]
vivifying fire and gentle breath,
come and abide in us.
Renew in us the passion for unity
so that we may live in awareness of the bond that unites us in you.
May all who have put on Christ at their Baptism unite
and bear witness together to the hope that sustains them.
Are you resigned to the scandal of separation of Christians?
What part of your tradition is vital and life giving and what can you learn from what is vital and life giving within other Christian traditions?
What could be the impact on the world of greater unity between the churches?
Deuteronomy 30:11-20The word of God is very close to you
Matthew 5:1-12Blessed are you
The Word of God is very close to us. It is a blessing and a promise of happiness. If we open our hearts, God speaks to us and patiently transforms that which is dying in us. He removes that which prevents the growth of real life, just as the vine grower prunes the vine.
Regularly meditating on a biblical text, alone or in a group, changes our outlook. Many Christians pray the Beatitudes every day. The Beatitudes reveal to us a happiness that is hidden in that which is unfulfilled, a happiness that lies beyond suffering: blessed are those who, touched by the Spirit, no longer hold back their tears but let them flow and thus receive consolation. As they discover the wellspring hidden within their inner landscape, the hunger for justice, and the thirst to engage with others for a world of peace, grows in them.
We are constantly called to renew our commitment to life, through our thoughts and actions. There are times when we already taste, here and now, the blessing that will be fulfilled at the end of time.
Pray and work that God may reign.
Throughout your day
Let the Word of God breathe life into work and rest.
Maintain inner silence in all things
so as to dwell in Christ.
Be filled with the spirit of the Beatitudes,
joy, simplicity, mercy.”
Words recited daily by the Sisters of the Grandchamp Community]
Blessed are you,
God our Father,
for the gift of your word in Holy Scripture.
Blessed are you for its transforming power.
Help us choose life and guide us by your Spirit,
so that we can experience the happiness
which you want so much to share with us.
What does it mean to you that “God may reign” in your life? Is there anything you could change or adjust?
If your church(es) were to live the “Beatitudes” each day what difference would this make to the communities they serve?
What does it mean in our world today to be blessed by God?
“I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends”
Romans 8:26-27The Spirit helps us in our weakness
Luke 11:1-4Lord, teach us to pray
God thirsts for relationship with us. He searches for us as he searched for Adam, calling to him in the garden: “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9)
In Christ, God came to meet us. Jesus lived in prayer, intimately united to his Father, while creating friendships with his disciples and all those he met. He introduced them to that which was most precious to him: the relationship of love with his Father, who is our Father. Jesus and the disciples sang psalms together, rooted in the richness of their Jewish tradition. At other times, Jesus retired to pray alone.
Prayer can be solitary or shared with others. It can express wonder, complaint, intercession, thanksgiving or simple silence. Sometimes the desire to pray is there, but one has the feeling of not being able to do so. Turning to Jesus and saying to him, “teach me”, can pave the way. Our desire itself is already prayer.
“In the regularity of our common prayer, the love of Jesus springs up within us, we know not how. Common prayer does not exempt us from personal prayer. One sustains the other. Let us take a time each day to renew our personal intimacy with Jesus Christ.”
The Rule of Taizé in French & English, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Great Britain pp. 19 & 21
Lord Jesus, your entire life was prayer,
perfect harmony with the Father.
Through your Spirit, teach us to pray
according to your will of love.
May the faithful of the whole world unite
in intercession and praise,
and may your kingdom of love come.
Jesus lived as an example of what it means to “live in prayer”. If prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God how much time and attention could you give to your personal prayer life?
What have you learned from praying with other Christians? What might God want you to learn from the practices and traditions of others?
What specific need in your community can you commit to pray for over the coming year?
On the eve of his death, Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his disciples. He knew the difficulty of living together and the importance of forgiveness and mutual service. “Unless I wash you,” he said to Peter, “you have no share with me.” Peter received Jesus at his feet; he was washed and was touched by the humility and gentleness of Christ. Later he would follow Jesus’ example and serve the fellowship of the faithful in the early church. Jesus wishes that life and love circulate through us as the sap through the vine, so that Christian communities be one body. But today as in the past, it is not easy to live together. We are often faced with our own limitations. At times we fail to love those who are close to us in a community, parish or family. There are times when our relationships break down completely. In Christ we are invited to be clothed in compassion, through countless new beginnings. The recognition that we are loved by God moves us to welcome each other with our strengths and weaknesses. It is then that Christ is in our midst.
“With almost nothing, are you a creator of reconciliation in that communion of love, which is the Body of Christ, his Church? Sustained by a shared momentum, rejoice! You are no longer alone, in all things you are advancing together with your brothers and sisters. With them, you are called to live the parable of community.” [The Sources of Taizé (2000) pp. 48-49]
DAY 1 You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16)
Genesis 12:1-4 The call of Abraham John 1:35-51 The call of the first disciples
Prayer Jesus Christ, you seek us, you wish to offer us your friendship and lead us to a life that is ever more complete. Grant us the confidence to answer your call so that we may be transformed and become witnesses of your tenderness for the world.
Questions • Have you ever been aware that God was asking you or someone you know to begin a new journey in life – whether literally moving to somewhere else, or ‘changing direction’ in some other way? How did you respond? • What changes could your church or group of churches make to empower God’s people to walk more faithfully the path God has set for you, or to discern God’s guidance more clearly? • What are some of the stories of the ‘new’ members of your community, whether they have crossed a county boundary or journeyed across continents to get there?
The booklet for Church Unity week can be found here.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity starts tomorrow. I have no idea what shared service might be possible, but we’ve been learning how to stay together in new ways for months now. If we cannot gather in each other’s buildings, we can pray together at Pope John Paul II’s ‘Altar of the World’.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2021 has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family. The Grandchamp Community has its origins in Europe in the 1930s, when a group of women of the Reformed tradition sought to rediscover the importance of silence and listening to the Word of God. Today the community has fifty sisters, all women from different generations, Church traditions, countries and continents. In their diversity the sisters are a living parable of communion. They remain faithful to a life of prayer, life in community and the welcoming of guests. In producing the material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2021, the sisters are inviting churches across the world to enter into their tradition of prayer and silence that is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Church catholic.
Jesus said to the disciples, “abide in my love” (John 15:9). He abides in the love of the Father (Jn 15:10) and desires nothing other than to share this love with us. The Father is the centre of our lives, who centres our lives. He prunes us and makes us whole, and whole human beings give glory to the Father. Abiding in Christ is an inner attitude that takes root in us over time. It demands space to grow. It can be overtaken by the struggle for the necessities of life and it is threatened by the distractions, noise, activity and the challenges of life. We who know the full value of a spiritual life, have an immense responsibility and must realise it, unite and help each other create forces of calmness, refuges of peace, vital centres where the silence of people calls on the creative word of God. It is a question of life and death.
Agnellus Mirror will reflect some of the meditations and prayers suggested for each day of the week of prayer; let us pray today for the gift to be silent with others, allowing them room to speak or just be quiet with us.
Another story about hospitality to finish the season. Re-reading an old email reminded me that I was going to write a blog about this pub, or rather its sign: The Gate. I used to cycle this way when I was at college, and one more time about ten years ago to visit two friends who were unwell.
There is a verse that accompanies the sign of the Gate; there are various versions around the country:
This Gate hangs high and hinders none,
Refreshment take and then jog on.
Did I ever stop there for a drink? I don’t remember but I’m glad to say the place has not been converted into flats!
Gates were set across roads in 19th Century England to collect toll charges – money to pay for construction, upkeep and improvement of the highway. If people had to stop anyway, the pub would hope to invite them in to ‘refreshment take and then jog on’. There is another story, told by Jesus:
I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and he shall go in, and go out, and shall find pastures. John 10.9
Often and often I’d seen her, on the opposite side of the road, making for the little supermarket, walking stick in hand, eyes fixed ten yards in front of her, seemingly intent on the journey rather than the goal. It would not have been appropriate to call out a greeting, and I was not at all sure she would remember me from church.
Today a man was talking to her as I drew abreast, but she seemed to be dismissing him. But no sooner had he gone his way than she seemed to be staggering. I crossed and greeted her by name: ‘Mrs K, you seem to be in difficulty.’ Enough to win her confidence, she took my arm and we made a somewhat erratic progress to the shop. ‘I always get a taxi back.’
No sooner were we through the door than an assistant had scooped her away and into a chair. Mrs K got her shopping list out and the young woman was soon finding her groceries, and no doubt arranged for the taxi to come and take her to her door.
Let us be grateful that shops can still be human-friendly and serve with a smile; thank you Flavia! But I also want to salute the sheer bravery of Mrs K, stepping out on a cold morning, facing the danger of falling or losing the energy to make it to the shop (and then what?)
There are many people living with disability or weakness who nonetheless are witnesses to life and indeed to something beyond earthly life. Keeping going, day after day, can be disheartening, and if there is nothing to look forward to, then why bother?
But, we are Easter People. At the end of John’s Gospel we read how Peter saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? follow thou me. (John 21:20-21)Jesus and Peter were talking about John, the beloved disciple, but his words apply to most of us Christians today: we are called, not to martyrdom, but to remain until he comes, watching like the wise bridesmaids, and to follow him to the wedding feast whenever he calls us.
A couple of sentences at the end of the article* struck me.
‘Why has the Catholic priesthood wanted to present itself over the centuries as perfect, as impregnable? Since the child abuse scandal… this facade has crumbled and our priests are now humbler as a result and fewer in number.’
Read any of the Gospels and we see men who were far from impregnable. Look at the last chapter (21, 14-17) of John:
This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead. When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.
We all know about Peter’s betrayal: this scene of forgiveness and mission came after that; it came in the early days of the New World Order. No-one tried to cover up Peter’s terrible lapse, to pretend it had not happened. No-one made him out to be perfect.
I’m grateful to our own Fr Daniel Weatherley who likened St Peter’s Chair to those held by professors, who bring to the post all their wisdom and experience. Peter was a man of experience, and of hard-won wisdom.
Let’s pray with him: ‘Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.’
And listen out for the call. Who will I be asked to feed today or tomorrow. What can I offer them?
*Stephen Hough, Struggles of the calling, the Tablet, 17.2.2018, p13.