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
City dweller Robert MacFarlane wondered if there were any wild places left in the British Isles, and he set out to find them. Often enough early Christian monks and hermits had been there before him; to islands and other inaccessible spots.
But what did he mean by wildness? Early in the book he discusses the idea:
‘Wildness … is an expression of independence from human direction, and wild land can be said to be self-willed land. Land that proceeds according to its own laws and principles, land whose habits — the growth of its trees, the free descent of its streams through its rocks — are of its own devising and own execution. Land that … acts or moves freely without restraint; is unconfined, unrestricted.’*
Town and city dwellers live in human directed lands, concrete, brick and glass, but also most of the British countryside is farmed, drained, controlled. Can we find wilderness, to use the old Biblical world, without travelling to distant places?
We have to look for it nearer to home, in pockets and cracks. There are the weeds that devise and execute their own growth and spread, like traveller’s joy rooted on railway land. Or there are remnants of countryside, like the plum tree that Abel likes to hide behind; it is surely a sucker from a rootstock left behind when the orchard was grubbed up for housing in the 1960s, since its fruit is insignificant and unpalatable. There are overgrown cemeteries, like that in Mile End, full of life that is quite unexpected in London’s East End.
The wild tries to return, perhaps we should salute it and follow its example to revisit the corner of our heart that moves freely, without restraint: that is open to love, growth and renewal.
*Robert MacFarlane, The Wild Places, London, Granta, 2007, p30.
We just held the first planning meeting for this year’s L’Arche Kent pilgrimage. It takes some planning, we can’t just hope for the best. There’s a lot to think about: ‘Not enough cake!’ And possibly guests from other communities to feed.
We know where we’re going – Canterbury – and we know where we are starting: Sandwich Quay, where Archbishop Thomas Becket made landfall on his return to England in 1170, to be murdered a few weeks later in his own Cathedral. As well as 850 years since then, it is 900 years since his birth in London, and 800 years since his second shrine was blessed and his bones relocated, or translated, into it.
The route needs planning in detail to be sure it’s accessible and safe from fast traffic; we need to plan our stops and seek hospitality for eating, toileting and washing, and a few minutes of prayer, three times a day. But what prayers, what Scripture will we read? Who will produce the art work* for the passports? Will all be done in time?
Come the end of May, it will be best foot forward again! The walk will feel like the easy bit. Mrs T and I are to test the first couple of miles tomorrow. I’ve cycled over it often enough, but that’s another story.
After reading yesterday about a son who did not want to inherit his father’s wealth, here’s a true tale of a grandson inheriting from his uncle and grandfather – whilst they are still around to enjoy his enjoyment of the gift. The play value over 60+ years far exceeds the monetary value the toys would have if preserved in their boxes but unplayed with.
This post features a comment I wrote on the blog “Unshakable Hope“. The link below will take you to the post I was commenting on. I recommend a visit, but felt this comment deserved a spot of its own. Do go and visit Bill!
Good morning Bill,
thanks for looking into Agnellus Mirror and deciding to follow us.
Your story of the old cars reminds me that Abel, my 4 year old grandson, loves playing with the actual 1950s to 1970s Matchbox cars that my brothers and I once played with. They were made to be played with – even unto the third generation! In once sense they have lost value, like the rusty old cars. But they are fulfilling their ‘vocation’ as old books do when they are re-read, including, of course, the Scriptures!
The British Library houses many old books, including Anglo-Saxon manuscripts of the scriptures. Some of their – or rather our – treasures have been put on line. Whatever their past history, they are cared for in this paradise for books.
“But to be written to is the chief gladness of course; and with all you say of liking to have my letters (which I like to hear quite enough indeed) you cannot pretend to think that yours are not more to me, most to me! Ask my guardian-angel and hear what he says! Yours will look another way for shame of measuring joys with him! Because as I have said before, and as he says now, you are all to me, all the light, all the life; I am living for you now.
And before I knew you, what was I and where? What was the world to me, do you think? and the meaning of life? And now, when you come and go, and write and do not write, all the hours are chequered accordingly in so many squares of white and black, as if for playing at fox and goose … only there is no fox, and I will not agree to be goose for one … that is you perhaps, for being ‘too easily’ satisfied. So my claim is that you are more to me than I can be to you.“
A running joke between two people who are totally sure of each other, and will soon elope to Italy as man and wife despite Elizabeth’s father. But letters between friends – we have few excuses for not whizzing off the occasional email to arrive in Australia or Zambia almost before it’s left the keyboard. Of course they may never be collated into two volumes for public consumption; let our emails be private and let the recipient decide whether to keep them.
And letters from our Creator are there for us, via Paul, Peter, John, Jude; and really in all of the Bible. No need to get up from the computer and find a hard copy, two clicks and the Scripture is there at our fingertips in many languages.
We can answer God’s messages by going to Universalis for the daily prayer of the Church. We are spoilt children, though Elizabeth Barrett was receiving two or three posts per day in central London, compared to just one today.
Who are you going to write to today, this minute, to incite gladness?
And let’s say thank you for human ingenuity and information technology. Which includes the pens and paper that RB and EBB enthused about occasionally!
(from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846” by Robert Browning) From Project Gutenberg
Angel – God’s messenger – from St Mary Magdalene, Davington, Kent.
Any teacher or preacher would have to admit to moments when we’d as soon address the fish of the sea or the school pond, than humans who don’t want to be taught. Abel enjoyed a response from the university carp a few weeks ago, but he was tossing lumps of bread, not words of wisdom.
The blessed Christ, desiring to set forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant, Saint Antony, with what devotion men should give ear unto his preaching and his holy doctrine, once on a time, amongst others, reproved the folly of the infidel heretics by means of the animals that have no reason, to wit, by the fishes, even as in old time in the Old Testament he had reproved the ignorance of Balaam by the mouth of the ass.
Wherefore on a day Saint Antony being in Rimini, where was great company of heretics, desiring to bring them back to the light of the true faith and to the path of virtue, preached unto them for many days, and disputed of the faith of Christ and of the Holy Scripture; but they not only gave no consent unto his holy words, but therewithal, as men hardened and stiff-necked, would give no ear unto him.
Inspired of God, Saint Antony went one day to the river-side hard by the sea; and standing thus upon the bank betwixt the river and the sea, began to speak after the manner of a preacher sent by God unto the fishes: “Hear the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, since the infidel heretics refuse to hear it.” And when he had thus spoken, forthwith there came unto him to the bank a multitude of fishes, great and small and what between, that never in that sea nor in that river had been seen so great a multitude; and they all held up their heads above the water and all stood attentive towards the face of Saint Antony, one and all in much great peace and gentleness and order; for in front and more a-nigh the bank stood the smaller fish, and behind them stood the fish of middle size, further behind where deeper water was the greater fishes stood.