Part of me wants Genesis 9:8-15, God’s Covenant with Noah, to be an Easter Vigil reading, when in fact it comes at the beginning of Lent in Year B. Nevertheless, it does speak of salvation, and water bringing Noah’s family to new life; it’s a little taste of Easter as Lent starts. The rainbow still tastes of Easter if we celebrate it in Easter week, with the curate of Selborne, Gilbert White. Our picture is of the rainbow seen over our friend Mrs O’s house on the day of her funeral. White was a pioneer of natural history, and here the scientist and theologian are one with the poet: ‘Lovely refraction!’ ‘Maker Omnipotent.’Happy Easter!
ON THE RAINBOW by Gilbert White of Selborne.
” Look upon the Rainbow, and praise him that made it: very beautiful is it in the brightness thereof.” Ecclesiastes, 18:11.
On morning or on evening cloud impress'd,
Bent in vast curve, the watery meteor shines
Delightfully, to th' levell'd sun opposed:
Lovely refraction ! while the vivid brede
In listed colours glows, th' unconscious swain,
With vacant eye, gazes on the divine
Phenomenon, gleaming o'er the illumined fields,
Or runs to catch the treasures which it sheds.
Not so the sage: inspired with pious awe,
He hails the federal arch ; and looking up,
Adores that God, whose fingers form'd this bow
Magnificent, compassing heaven about
With a resplendent verge, " Thou mad'st the cloud,
Maker omnipotent, and thou the bow
And by that covenant graciously hast sworn
Never to drown the world again: henceforth,
Till time shall be no more, in ceaseless round,
Season shall follow season: day to night,
Summer to winter, harvest to seed time,
Heat shall to cold in regular array
Succeed. — Heav'n taught, so sang the Hebrew bard."
(from “The Natural History of Selborne” by Gilbert White)
The latest circular from the Synod Office looks at the Biblical sources of the Synod. Read the whole document here. See the opening paragraphs below. (Did I once express the hope that there would not be too much technical language or long sentences? Perhaps I was dreaming.) One article which is more accessible comes from Burkina Faso, where they have great problems in getting together because of terrorist attacks.
How are you? We come with new information and a theme that is inspiring and fundamental: The Word of God in the synodal journey. We are in a process of listening, in which we must be attentive to the Word like Mary. This Word will encourage and guide us in our journey as a pilgrim Church.
Synodality and the Word of God
The Biblical Subgroup of the Spirituality Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has prepared a resource entitled “Biblical Resources for Synodality,” which highlights how Scripture is at the heart of the synodal journey.
We have shared Stations of the Cross before in 2018 and 2019. This year we draw your attention to 14 reflections from the Visual Commentary on Scripture, two for each week in Lent. The link at the bottom of the post will enable you to receive twice weekly emails of the VCS reflections, which are by many different writers, always interesting and thought provoking; we recommend these posts.
Lent 2022: Stations of the Cross
This year, we invite you to mark the season of Lent, from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday, by following our ‘Stations of the Cross’.
The VCS Stations of the Cross consist of fourteen selected commentaries, each one reflecting on a biblical passage in dialogue with a work of art.
Format: We will share 2 stations a week, beginning on Ash Wednesday and running until Good Friday.
We hope that these resources will help you experience the weeks between now and Easter in new and meaningful ways.
Stations of the Cross Emails
Sign up here to receive links direct to your inbox with our twice weekly emails, running from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday.
Life goes on, despite Covid19: Reverend Jo has put her infection behind her, but the virus is still with us, as her message for the last week in Advent makes plain. The Nine Lessons and Carols was ‘just lovely’, as Jo says.
Good morning to you all and I hope this finds you all well, as we are here at the Rectory. With all the uncertainty around at the moment, it was just lovely to be able to have our Benefice Nine Lessons and Carols in St Dunstan’s yesterday evening. It really was a ‘light shining in the darkness’ moment and I think very much appreciated by all who came – we had over 60 which was just lovely; especially with the candle chandeliers lit, the choir and handbells it was so uplifting!
If you did miss it and want to catch up, it can be accessed via our website: https://www.dunstanmildredpeter.org.uk/livestreaming.htm and click on Nine Lessons and Carols. Sometimes with the gloom and doom that seems so prevalent at times one needs something like that to lift the spirits and hear the Christmas Story afresh. Thank you to all who made it such a lovely service.
A reminder that after service refreshments, Saturday morning coffee at St Dunstan’s and St Dunstan’s Lunch Club are cancelled, and hopefully for the very short term, as we ride this current covid ‘storm’.
At the moment, all our services are as planned for this week: Christmas Eve Friday 24 December:4.00 Crib Service at St Dunstan’s 6.30 Christmas Eve Eucharist at St Peter’s11.30 Midnight Mass at both St Mildred’s & St Dunstan’s Christmas Day:8.00 Said Eucharist at St Dunstan’s10.00 Sung Eucharist at St Dunstan’s Sunday 26th December: Feast of St Stephen: 9.30 Joint Benefice Sung Eucharist at St Peter’s. Thanks to Rev’d David Stroud who will be leading this service Sunday 2nd January (1st Sunday of the month)8.00 Said Eucharist at St Dunstan’s10.00 Sung Eucharist at St Dunstan’s4.00 Epiphany Carol Service at St Mildred’sPlease note Messy Church is cancelled on that day
Advent reflections continue this week – they have been a real ‘thought for the day’ to listen to and reflect on, and thank you to all those who have taken part. We will do the same again during Lent – and that’s longer! I will write again on Friday, unless we have any further updates. In the meantime, those of you who are getting away to see family and friends. wishing you a safe journey and a blessed Christmas.
God Bless and have a good day Jo Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury.
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”.
Thomas Traherne invites us to live eternal life now through reading the Bible and regarding all of creation with all our faculties, including the imagination, a faculty, he would argue, of the soul.
The contemplation of Eternity maketh the Soul immortal. It can see before and after its existence into endless spaces. O what glorious creatures should we be could we be present in spirit with all Eternity! How wise, would we esteem this presence of the understanding, to be more real than that of our bodies! When my soul is in Eden with our first parents, I myself am there in a blessed manner. When I walk with Enoch*, and see his translation, I am transported with him.
The present age is too little to contain [my soul]. I can visit Noah in his ark, and swim upon the waters of the deluge. I can see Moses with his rod, and the children of Israel passing through the sea; I can enter into Aaron’s Tabernacle, and admire the mysteries of the holy place. I can travel over the Land of Canaan, and see it overflowing with milk and honey; I can visit Solomon in his glory, and go into his temple, and view the sitting of his servants, and admire the magnificence and glory of his kingdom.
No creature but one like unto the Holy Angels can see into all ages. Sure this power was not given in vain, but for some wonderful purpose; worthy of itself to enjoy and fathom. Would men consider what God hath done, they would be ravished in spirit with the glory of His doings. For Heaven and Earth are full of the majesty of His glory. And how happy would men be could they see and enjoy it! But above all these our Saviour’s cross is the throne of delights. That Centre of Eternity, that Tree of Life in the midst of the Paradise of God.
* Enoch ‘walked with God’ and was taken, or translated, into heaven and seen no more on earth, see Genesis 5:21-24.
+ Ark from Shrewsbury Cathedral, Margaret Rope. = The Tree of Life: Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge.
A parishioner recommended this book: “Whenever, I pick up this book and flick through to a random page, I am always surprised at the peacefulness it brings. It is an inspiring little book and well worth a read”.
As well as opening at random, the reader can turn first to an index which recommends readings for different occasions: anxiety, bereavement, disappointment, the future, and so on. The texts are words that Fr Wooley received in prayer and are linked to Scripture Readings; indeed, the book is proposed as an aid to reading the Bible.
The prophet Elijah has his feastday today, though comparatively few of us observe it. He is counted as an inspiration by Carmelites, for he lived as a hermit on Mount Carmel, where the Order was founded, centuries before it came to Europe.
Elijah does not have a book to his name, as Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos and others do, but we know of his witness in the Northern Kingdom of Israel from the Books of Kings.
It was on Mount Carmel that Elijah faced down the prophets of Baal and the people of Israel, who were worshipping both the Lord and Baal. More than 400 prophets of Baal danced and sang all day to their god, but nothing happened to their offering. Elijah, having built his altar, added firewood and the sacrifice of a bull’s carcase, drenched it all in water, and the Lord sent fire to consume it all.
Later, when Elijah was close to despair with the wickedness of the people and King Ahab, he ran away, but the Lord sent ravens to feed him and strengthen him. That is the scene shown here in a house sign from Amsterdam.
Elijah faithfully challenged Ahab on God’s behalf, but it did not make for an easy life, as the Books of Kings tell us. Let’s pray for the grace of perseverance in our own lives.
“We then walked to the beach, where there were a great number of bathers, all men. Amongst them were some good swimmers; two, in particular, were out at a great distance in the firth of the Guadalquivir, I should say at least a mile; their heads could just be descried with the telescope. I was told that they were friars. I wondered at what period of their lives they had acquired their dexterity at natation. I hoped it was not at a time when, according to their vows, they should have lived for prayer, fasting, and mortification alone. Swimming is a noble exercise, but it certainly does not tend to mortify either the flesh or the spirit.
From George Borrow, 1843: The Bible in Spain; or, the journeys, adventures, and imprisonments of an Englishman, in an attempt to circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula, available on Kindle or on line.
Borrow did not have a high opinion of friars! Clearly they should not enjoy themselves with an evening swim. To be fair, there were many who opposed his mission to bring Spaniards the Bible in the vernacular – he had Bibles and New Testaments in Spanish and the Gospel of Luke in the local Romany dialect, but without the Council of Trent’s official interpretive notes, which were anathema to Borrow as an evangelical Protestant! Times have changed, thank God, and the Catholic Church and Bible Societies are ready to co-operate in many ways.
It’s a temptation to take stray verses from the Bible and use them to justify almost any course of action. Try arguing with a doorstep evangelist who has his text to expound, and does not want to engage with verses a little further on! So I’ll offer you this verse from Job (17:9) and invite you to persevere in adversity as Job did, and to remember to wash your hands! And maybe enjoy a read in Job, Esther, or Ruth.
And the just man shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. Job 17:9