Dunstan, a royal prince of Wessex, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 960. As well as being an outstanding pastor and royal advisor, he was a scholar, teacher, metalworker and artist. This is believed to be his self-portrait, bowing in adoration of Christ.
This post from the British Library by Andrew Dunning includes a number of portraits of Dunstan from mediaeval manuscripts, as well as a prayer written in his own hand, as seen above the kneeling figure in the picture above.
Saint Dunstan’s church, Canterbury, outside the city walls to the north of town.
Moses set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal. And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat: When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the Lord commanded Moses.
And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
There is a connection between the picture and the reading from Exodus! The passage comes at the end of a long, detailed description of how the Tabernacle (the mobile Temple of the Lord) was to be designed and built, according to a divine blueprint. When almost all the construction was complete, Moses finished the work by hanging a veil over the gateway. With all the other hangings and curtains, nobody could see inside and very few people were allowed inside.
Yesterday we looked at the Cross as the gate to Heaven; today we take that idea forward a step. Matthew tells of the veil of the Temple torn from top to bottom, and an earthquake – another dreadful night in that dreadful place – and the appearance ‘of the saints that had slept’, surely good news to those who loved them, to see them alive.
This happened, Matthew tells us, after Jesus’s resurrection; he is setting the scene for Easter morning, and Mary Magdalene and the other women making their way to the tomb, realising there that the stone is rolled away, the veil is irrevocably torn, Jacob’s seed has opened the gate of Heaven.
Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent.
And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose, And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many. Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake, and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed this was the Son of God.
And there were there many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
In recent years Mrs T and I have only seen Peterborough Cathedral from the train. Modern ticketing make it difficult to break a journey for a minipilgrimage or just to stretch your legs. So let’s join Cathedral guide Ann Reynolds as she tells the story of Saint Kyneburgha, who helped found the monastery on this site in AD 653. England and Wales had many redoubtable women church leaders in those times: surely the DNA is still in our women’s veins?
Good morning to you all on another cold and frosty morning – it is very icy out there – going for my walk yesterday I rather glamorously slipped over on the ice, whilst heading up St Thomas’s Hill, all is well but be careful! Morning prayer: https://youtu.be/E3J53B5PCtk Today in Morning Prayer, we have been asked to remember another character: St. Scholastica, so a little bit about her… I love how we get to hear of these folk down the ages… Scholastica (c. 480 – 10 February 543) is a saint of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. She was born in Italy. According to a ninth century tradition, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia.Her feast day is 10 February, Saint Scholastica’s Day. Scholastica is traditionally regarded as the foundress of the Benedictine nuns. Ref and more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholastica
Plastic Free Lent: With Lent beginning next week, Sami (from St Dunstan’s), Caroline Blamely who heads up our eco-church committee and myself are compiling a series of tips to help us reduce the amount of plastic we use in our lives – so much is changing a habit. So watch this space, as we will be publishing these tips in my daily brief, on our website, twitter account, instagram & Facebook – so watch this space.
Ash Wednesday: 17th February: This will be live-streamed from St Dunstan’s in the evening (7.30), Meanwhile, keep warm, it’s freezing, and am heading off to Barham Crematorium so prayers for another family mourning the loss of a loved one – it is so tough. Keep connected, keep well and keep praying!
God Bless, Jo
Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury
Bishop Claude Rault M Afr was bishop of the Sahara before retiring. He knew most of the Algerian Martyrs whom we have reflected on before. Their feast day was May 8th, and Bishop Claude preached this homily in Paris. What do you think makes someone a saint?
Revisiting ‘The Imitation of Christ’ after many years, in my Grandmother’s 1936 edition, I realise that it is very self-centred. Here Thomas A Kempis takes the Desert Fathers and Mothers as examples of the Christian life; ‘They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity. ‘ Is that what the Lord asks of us? Do we have to be strangers to the world in order to be intimate friends of God? I think not. Walking in charity and patience surely demands that we live in the world, and love the people in it and indeed the whole of creation, and our own life in it. Loving God’s creation which we can see, is to love the God we cannot see. Love of creation, rather than contempt for it, will bring us back from the brink of destruction. But here is The Imitation: I hope the time spent reading it is profitable!
Consider the lively examples set us by the saints, who possessed the light of true perfection and religion, and you will see how little, how nearly nothing, we do. What, alas, is our life, compared with theirs?
The saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in work and fatigue, in vigils and fasts, in prayers and holy meditations, in persecutions and many afflictions. How many and severe were the trials they suffered — the Apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the rest who willed to follow in the footsteps of Christ! They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity.
How strict and detached were the lives the holy hermits led in the desert! … They used all their time profitably; every hour seemed too short for serving God, and in the great sweetness of contemplation, they forgot even their bodily needs …
Strangers to the world, they were close and intimate friends of God. To themselves they seemed as nothing, and they were despised by the world, but in the eyes of God they were precious and beloved. They lived in true humility and simple obedience; they walked in charity and patience, making progress daily on the pathway of spiritual life and obtaining great favour with God. They were given as an example for all religious, and their power to stimulate us to perfection ought to be greater than that of the lukewarm to tempt us to laxity.
Taken from the translation by Aloysius Croft and Harold Bolton, Digitized by Harry Plantinga, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1994. This etext is in the public domain.
For this month of March, Pope Francis asks us to pray for the Church in China.
We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.
Although Christianity has existed in China since the first Millennium, it was The Jesuit Matteo Ricci who most famously began missionary work in Imperial Beijing in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Other missionaries followed, including the Columbans who were among those deported by the Communist regime in 1949. They now have new links with the country which you can read about in their Far East Magazine.
These last few days I have been enjoying the gradual appearance of the violets along the path beside our house, but instead of getting down on my hands and knees to take a picture of them let me share these from the little Welsh city of Saint David’s. We were there in Spring a few years ago and these were by a path leading to the saint’s birthplace. ‘Be faithful in the little things’, he told his followers as he lay dying, back in the late 6th Century.
Let’s be faithful to the little things of this earth and always to have room for a few violets, or even daisies, beside our paths.
And Laudato Si!
A version of this post appeared last year on Will Turnstone’s own blog.
This statue in Venice is very like that of Mary at Lourdes, and as we see, it is surrounded by passport photos and little notes, petitions and thank-yous. We saw a similar crop of photographs around the statue of Our Lady of Valencia. The Basilica of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers also receives photos and notes from Muslims as well as Christians.
Prayer, we were taught at school, is the raising of the heart and mind to God, but it is also a physical activity. Sitting, kneeling, bowing, walking or riding on pilgrimage, even the physical act of going to the parish church of a Sunday; any of these can enable us to raise our hearts and minds to God.
So prayer can be going to church and leaving a prayer request on a board or in a basket. Or leaving a prayer request before the tomb of a saint, or in this case a statue. We can ask for the prayers of the Church, not just the Church on earth today but also the saints triumphant who have all the time in eternity to pray for us: Mary included.
Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. What are people seeking there? Can it be put into words? Perhaps peace and healing of the heart and mind, if not of the body, is what I hear most often as the gift of the pilgrimage. An on-going process, not always to be rushed.
Those who leave photos or candles in front of Mary’s statue commend their loved ones to our prayers as well as Mary’s: let us pray then for all who will make the Lourdes pilgrimage this year, as sick pilgrims or helpers, and for all who ask our prayers, directly or through such gestures as we see in this photograph.