Hundreds of times I have cycled past this gate, rather fewer times have I walked past Saint Mildred’s church on my way to work at L’Arche’s Glebe garden. This morning I had to stop and fix the church’s banner that had come adrift in a high wind; and I found myself beside the gate and able to read its dedication.
I had little to do with Saint Mildred’s church before I returned to L’Arche some ten years after the gate was given, and I never knew the Dinnages; as the years pass by there will be fewer and fewer who have any memory of them. How many are like me, in passing by without thinking?
Well, here are a few thoughts.
The gate opens into the area where the cremated remains of parishioners are interred. It is at the East end of the churchyard that surrounds the church on three sides; all but the North. The East is where the sun rises, where the light comes into the world, day by day, so naturally enough churches were aligned East to West, with the altar at the East end and the congregation facing that way. The people laid to rest here will be facing the rising sun and the Risen Lord, despite looking towards a multistorey car park, the old gas works and a wall that is a graffiti hot spot.
If Joan and Leslie Dinnage are likely to be forgotten as the years roll by, I’d guess that most of those beneath the tombstones to the rear of the picture are known only to particularly assiduous local historians. Yet the Lord will call them home, as here he leads Adam and Eve away from the gates of Hell.
In Christian solidarity, otherwise known as the Communion of Saints, let us pray for Joan and Leslie; for all laid to rest in St Mildred’s churchyard, and all those who have died from the covid infection.
Christina Rossetti called the poem from which this is taken ‘Advent’. My working title for this post was ‘Noli me tangere: Christ’s ‘do not hold me’ to Mary on Easter morning, and I would have used it for Easter week had I not received the last two posts from Tim and Sheila; it fits in nicely here, on the day when the Sun peeps over the horizon in Greenland: winter is on his way out!
I’ve been careful these last weeks: as I write our county is a hotspot of Covid19 and my family want to hold me fast for a while longer. We do appreciate what a blessing touch is, with two young grandsons to ram the message home. But only essential shopping is being done in person and we have been attending Mass on-line, at our own parish except when our tech or the church’s was malfunctioning. As my wife says, perhaps the best thing we can do is to keep away from infection and not take up the health service’s time. And take the vaccination when offered. But it also means not attending the most popular Masses. That’s one of those things we have to accept. But the Mass is the one sacrifice; it can be said to have begun with the Nativity (or even the Annunciation) and continued through the passion that, as Rowan Williams reminds us, was Christ’s life, to the passion that was his death and resurrection. My attending on a computer screen instead of in the pew does not reduce its saving efficacy.
And as Christina Chase suggested to me, this absent-presence can lead to a greater desire to receive Christ sacramentally, making St Alphonsus’ Spiritual Communion a prayer powerful in our own lives. But here is that other Christina, Christina Rossetti:
We weep because the night is long, We laugh, for day shall rise, We sing a slow contented song And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept For us,–we hold Him fast; And will not let Him go except He bless us first or last.”
( Advent from “Poems” by Christina Georgina Rossetti)
Beauty being a thing consisting of variety, that body could not be one simple being, but must be sweetly tempered of a manifold and delightful mixture of figures and colours: and be some such thing as Ezekiel saw in his vision.
For uniform beauty the Sun is the most delightful, yet … a body more beautiful than it may be made.
Suppose therefore the most beautiful that is possible were created. What would follow? Being a silent and quiet object of the eye, would be no more noted than if it had not a being, The most beautiful object being always present, grows common and despised. Even as a picture is at first admired, but at length no more regarded than the bare wall.
Since therefore the most beautiful thing that is possible, being always continued, would grow into contempt; how do we know, but the world is that body, which the Deity bath assumed to manifest His Beauty and by which He maketh Himself as visible, as it is possible He should?
Sign outside the betting shop: STAY SAFE! KEEP YOUR DISTANCE! Sounds like excellent advise to me!
These last few weeks we may seem to have forgotten and foregone our response to the corona corvid viral pest, but we are still here and safe and healthy. This sighting was worth sharing. We hope you’ve had an excellent summer with plenty of free vitamin D from the sunshine. Happy Autumn; keep safe and keep praying!
I realised yesterday that six months and more had gone by with these posts in the drafts box. Much as I love trees, I have to say that the sunshine is reaching the parts of my daughter’s garden where a badly treated one was removed! Here’s an indomitable rose from Mrs O’s garden,
And altogether, I may say that the earth looks the brighter to me in proportion to my own deprivations. The laburnum trees and rose trees are plucked up by the roots—but the sunshine is in their places, and the root of the sunshine is above the storms.
What we call Life is a condition of the soul, and the soul must improve in happiness and wisdom, except by its own fault. These tears in our eyes, these faintings of the flesh, will not hinder such improvement.
the Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846
Downstairs in a pandemonium of claws then out into the spring sunshine. T had hardly noticed the weather, being absorbed in collating a report on Random Acts of Kindness between Earthly Species. The chihuahuas had contributed to the field-work, or rather park-work, that lay behind this thesis. They maintained, from a canine perspective, that when a dog looked at a human eye-to-eye, with tongue at half-mast in what some people called a smile, it was the dog initiating the exchange of kindness, not the human who scratched the dog between the ears or under the chin.
It was well drilled into the chihuahuas that they did not enter Peter’s Fish Factory. ‘After all’, said T, ‘You never went near the kitchen in Ossyria.’ ‘As if anyone ever would!’ retorted Alfie. ‘I never knew where they were, and I never wanted to.’ He broke off as T entered the shop, then turned to Ajax. ‘Well done, getting him out of the apartment. He’s spent too long on that report that will never be read. Even if it gets back to Ossyria, it will be suppressed. Random Acts of Kindness would upset the whole system. What’s the point of them in the best of all possible worlds?’
‘Best of all possible worlds? I don’t quite believe that any more.’ Ajax would have said more, but T had come out of Peter’s carrying a big paper bag with a blue fish printed on the side. ‘Beach steps or Winter Gardens?’ asked T. ‘Gardens’, came the reply. Aggressive, hungry gulls were intimidating to lowly chihuahuas, and there was more cover in the gardens. If necessary, a dog could hide under a bench, though not too close to another dog who might fancy the same morsel, or receive a larger whitebait.
This was the sight that greeted me when I got to work at the Glebe this morning. My corona virus sanctioned exercise for the day: three hours of gardening, in sunshine or those cool shadows. And the first radishes awaiting attention.
Easter is not just one day, one event that happened two thousand years ago.George Herbert sees it as the one day, the most high day: read on!
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise Without delays, Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise With him mayst rise: That, as his death calcined thee to dust, His life may make thee gold, and much more just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part With all thy art. The cross taught all wood to resound his name, Who bore the same. His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song Pleasant and long: Or since all music is but three parts vied And multiplied; O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part, And make up our defects with his sweet art.
I got me flowers to straw thy way: I got me boughs off many a tree: But thou wast up by break of day, And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
Can there be any day but this, Though many suns to shine endeavour? We count three hundred, but we miss: There is but one, and that one ever.
[The sun] raiseth corn to supply you with food, it melteth waters to quench your thirst, it infuseth sense into all your members, it illuminates the world to entertain you with prospects, it surroundeth you with the beauty of hills and valleys. It moveth and laboureth night and day for your comfort and service; it sprinkleth flowers upon the ground for your pleasure; and in all these things sheweth you the goodness and wisdom of a God that can make one thing so beautiful, delightful and serviceable, having ordained the same to innumerable ends.
It concocteth minerals, raiseth exhalations, begetteth clouds, sendeth down the dew and rain and snow, that refresheth and repaireth all the earth. And is far more glorious in its diurnal motion, than if there were two suns to make on either side a perpetual day: the swiftness whereby it moves in twenty-four hours about so vast an universe manifesteth the power and care of a Creator, more than any station or quiet could do.
And producing innumerable effects it is more glorious, than if millions of Angels diversly did do them.
It is on this day that the people of Greenland have their first glimpse of the sun for the new year.
Place yourself therefore in the midst of the world, as if you were alone, and meditate upon all the services which it doth unto you.
Suppose the Sun were absent; and conceive the world to be a dungeon of darkness and death about you: you will then find his beams more delightful than the approach of Angels: and loath the abomination of that sinful blindness, whereby you see not the glory of so great and bright a creature, because the air is filled with its beams. Then you will think that all its light shineth for you, and confess that God hath manifested Himself indeed, in the preparation of so divine a creature.
You will abhor the madness of those who esteem a purse of gold more than it. Alas, what could a man do with a purse of gold in an everlasting dungeon? And shall we prize the sun less than it, which is the light and fountain of all our pleasures? You will then abhor the preposterous method of those, who in an evil sense are blinded with its beams, and to whom the presence of the light is the greatest darkness. For they who would repine at God without the sun, are unthankful, having it: and therefore only despise it, because it is created.
‘Repine’ here we read as ‘moan’. Better to be grateful for what is given us, and so be happy.