Tag Archives: Wales

28 September, Relics XXVIII: Treasures of Saint David’s.

One part of St David’s Cathedral did not feature in our armchair pilgrimage – the Treasury. Strange, that, since we do like things that help tell the Story of Creation and Salvation, but thanks to Crispin Paine who visited for Religion & Collections, we can put that right now.

Dr Paine pays this compliment: the Treasury is a selection of things chosen to tell the story. Click here to read his post.

What story do your treasures tell? This cushion is not in the Treasury, but like so many of St David’s treasures is just doing its job in the Cathedral. But it invites us to sit and be comfortable in God’s presence and reminds us of the heavenly Jerusalem to which we are bound, a country as lovely as Wales but with better weather for camping! Can someone identify the tune, perhaps?

A note about the Charter mentioned by Dr Paine: ‘the City status of St Davids, while having ecclesiastical roots going back for centuries, was granted to all of St Davids by HM the Queen by Royal Charter on 1st June 1995’, according to the City Council. This charter put things to rights after it was discovered that there was no record of a city charter ever being granted. Rochester in Kent, however, lost its city status in 1998, when the city council was merged with Gillingham, and does not look like getting it back any time soon. Yet Rochester was the second English city, founded by St Justus in 604.

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27 September: Relics or souvenirs?

I shared these Welsh biscuits (Aberffraw biscuits) with my workmate after returning from Wales. They were traditionally baked in the shape of scallop shells as fare for pilgrims who would take ship at Aberffraw in Anglesey. A local bakery has revived the ancient recipe, adding lemon in this variety. (I did some research and found that St David could have tasted lemons as they had reached Rome in his time!)

There are many resonances to sharing a pilgrim’s biscuit. Both participate in a shared meal, a sort of bread broken between us. There is the journey and the return: like the twelve sent out by Jesus, I came home rejoicing, despite not having leant on him as they did (see Sister Johanna’s post on this topic in Luke’s gospel).

However, my family needed no second invitation when in Wales to obey one command of the Lord, and neither did my workmate in Canterbury:

And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. Luke 10:8.

Including pilgrim’s biscuits, which did not last long enough to become relics!

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23 September, Relics XXVII: de-faced, dehumanised

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We have not left our Welsh pilgrimage, although this crucifixion is in Saint Helen’s, Brant Broughton, Lincolnshire, almost at England’s East Coast. When we showed this image in November 2016 it was in the context of a poem by Wilfred Owen, Strange Meeting. There his opponent and himself are dehumanised by war

. This carving has literally been defaced by the iconoclasts, depriving Christ of his humanity. His arms rest upon those of the Father: the Spirit as Dove would have been above. Christ as human is the Image of God for us humans.

It seems especially sacrilegious after yesterday’s posting about the value to the owner of a portrait of the beloved.

The iconoclasts got as far as Saint David’s too.

This carved stone would, I guess, have been part of the reredos on the East wall immediately behind an altar. The zeal that went into shattering this image was surely akin to that of the so-called Islamists who have destroyed shrines, whether Buddhist, Christian, or indeed Muslim, in the name of a purer religion.

Yet this was discovered and given a place of honour in the cathedral, and at some date an unknown has scratched the words Jesus Christ in English at the back under his arms.

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21 September, Relics XXVI: Saint David’s altar stone.

Continuing our armchair pilgrimage to Wales: this altar stone is a treasure of Saint David’s Cathedral. Traditionally, Catholics have had, at the centre of altars, a stone containing relics of martyrs. This one, we are told by tradition, was a portable altar stone that could be used to celebrate the Eucharist outdoors or in a private dwelling.

The stone was given to David in Jerusalem. He brought it home to Wales and carried it on his travels around his diocese of Menevia. It is generally known as the Sapphire Stone.

This is a relic on many levels! It is a relic of Saint David himself, a reminder of his devotion to bringing the Eucharist to his flock: the source and summit of the Church’s life. It links the cathedral and visitors to David, founder of the cathedral, patron of Wales. And it links us, through David, to the pre-Islamic Holy Land, to the Apostles and to their Lord and ours.

Whatever your thoughts or feelings about altars or altar stones – and this one must have been well hidden in Reformation times to have survived – the emotional and spiritual resonances of this rather non-descript stone cannot be denied.

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17 September: be still.

Sharp eyed Kentish Maids and Men of Kent will recognise the coats of arms behind the altar: this is the chapel of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, but in Saint David’s Cathedral in Wales. Far enough from London not to incur the wrath of a turbulent Tudor; I don’t know when the dedication was made to our local hero but under Henry VIII more than a couple of churches in England were switched from Saint Thomas of Canterbury to the doubting Apostle.

When we were in Saint David’s they had this banner on display. Let’s accept their invitation, and put ourselves in the presence of God.

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14 July: About Saint Mildred

Saint Mildred at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent.

On Sunday 12th July, Rev Jo Richards was celebrating St Mildred’s day, which actually falls on 13th, yesterday.

Merciful God, who gave such grace to your servant Mildred that she served you with singleness of heart and loved you above all things: help us, whose communion with you has been renewed in this sacrament, to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mrs Turnstone and I took our afternoon walk across the marshes and meadows to Preston-next-Wingham’s Church of Saint Mildred. The crop in the field is cabbages. The organist was practising and stewarding the church for corvid tracing at the same time. We had a catch-up, as he is the husband of our daughter’s friend, a pray and a picnic in the churchyard. Thank you Saint Mildred!

Then yesterday, Mildred’s actual feast, Rev Jo came for a pastoral visit to the Glebe, blessing Vince and me and all absent friends. We got talking about the extraordinary young women in early times in England and Wales. Even locally there were Mildred and Eanswythe in Folkestone, but so many more who saw God’s will outside the good marriage and happy-ever-after that was expected for them.

Today, I said, you are part of a new wave.

Oh yes, but there’s also Archdeacon Jo and Bishop Rose. Not just me.

Indeed, not just Jo, and not just middle-aged women, and not just Anglicans either. I hope and pray that young women are appreciated for their ministry. You don’t have to be an official Christian Minister to be a Christian minister, but it would do good to remember in our intercessions those who are caring, teaching, driving buses and so on. Good to bring them to God; good for them to feel recognised; good for us to feel grateful. May we all grow into His likeness.

St_Mildred,Preston_next_Wingham,_KentWindowgeograph.org.uk-_325439

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5 April, Palm Sunday

Today we’d put out the flags, as Caernarfon did to welcome us (and thousands more tourists) a few years ago. 2,000 years ago it was palms and cloaks that were actively waved – not just left out in all weathers – as Jesus came to town. But by the following Friday nobody would have wanted the Romans to see the national flags and emblems on their buildings. Jesus had become dangerous to know.

The Plantagenet Kings whose castle commands this view would have looked askance at the scene, and their spies would have filled the castle governor’s ear with more or less factual accounts of the latest prince to arise to rally the Welsh. Pilate would have heard about Jesus before Palm Sunday but the parade of the King of the Jews did not lead to his immediate arrest. Pilate thought he could contain this uprising before it got very far.

By Friday festival fever was worrying a hypersensitive elite who valued the shaky Pax Romana as it applied in Judea, offering them status and privilege and allowing the Temple worship to continue according to the Law. Verses from the Psalms and the Prophets that challenged the idea of sacrifice were dismissed in their turn by the priests of the Temple.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Ps 51: 16-17

 

Jesus’s heart was broken, his body too, though not his spirit. His death completed his lifelong passion. It is all of a piece, as the Pieta tells us – the baby we saw Mary cuddling at Christmas is the One she cradles briefly before his burial. (Take a look at St Thomas’s Lady altar.) But today, knowing he is riding into difficult times, he is the King the crowd were waiting for.

Image from Missionaries of Africa
Strasbourg Cathedral

So let’s put out the flags in our hearts, and wave our palms for our King!

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1 March: Violets from Saint David’s.

violets.pembs

 

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.

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January 8: Delight

open-hands-prayer

Delight has empty hands.

These four words come from the Welsh poet Vernon Watkins, a friend of Dylan Thomas who rated him highly.

In our heart we know they are true. Watkins’s poem tells us that even a miser ‘knows delight has empty hands.’ Here we see Jesus taking Adam by the hand, and Adam clasping Eve’s: the triumph on the Lord’s face, Adam’s clear delight and Eve’s quiet acceptance of her redemption.

Delight has empty hands;

hands that can give, receive, take another’s hand, leading amid th’encircling gloom.

What must I drop in order to delight in being God’s redeemed creature?

strasbg.harrowhell (505x394)

See: The Collected Poems of Vernon Watkins, Ipswich, Golgonooza Press, 2000, p9.

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16 December: His saving hope.

hands pray dove

This is one of those pictures that say a thousand words. It is in Saint David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire. Last time we were there, one of the canons was addressing a group of schoolchildren in Welsh, but this sculpture could speak in any language including its own.

Try holding your hands that way, and you’ll see that if they belong to one person, it is the viewer, and the dove is looking you in the eye; and the dove is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Of course, for the vast majority of us, for the overwhelming proportion of our time, we do not see such a sign of God when we pray. Is it all wishful thinking? Paul addressed the question in his letter to the Romans (8:24-28).

We are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God. And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.

Instead of racking our brains for the right words to pray with, let the Spirit utter our feelings and desires – the hopes and fears of all our years.

Between gurgles, crying, eye contact and all body movements, my new grandson conveys his needs and desires efficiently enough for his adults to jump to meet them. He prays as he ought, to make known his hopes, needs and love.

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