Tag Archives: watching

22 May: In the Cathedral of the Forest

firtrees.sky (800x672)Many years ago I worked in a ‘Subnormality Hospital’ as they were called in England, or as this one was called in Switzerland, an Asylum. The men and women who lived there had often been committed by their parents who had been told that they had no place in society, but would be happy and safe in the asylum.

There was a young, international staff who were gradually changing the regime, recognising the human potential going to waste. Many of the people I would meet at L’Arche Kent in the early days had spent long years in such places.

Martin was around fifty, but looked older. Shortly before I arrived he had gone missing for three days and nights before walking back, very tired and hungry.

‘And do you know where he was, Maurice? He doesn’t talk about it any more, but he took a promenade in the woods, and spent those days and nights watching a family of fox cubs. Their mother seems to have known that Martin was no threat.’

Half an hour sitting still and quiet in Canterbury Cathedral is pushing it for me! Make that a quarter of an hour…

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Martin found his own chapel in the Cathedral of the Forest and was like Wisdom at the Creation: at God’s hand, observing and enjoying creation. A personal Pentecost.

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out:The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.

When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

Proverbs 8.

 

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17 April: The Vision by Mary Webb.

Boudicca

The Vision

In the busy tongues of spring
There’s an angel carolling.
Kneeling low in any place,
We may see the Father’s face;
Standing quiet anywhere,
Hear our Lady speaking fair;
And in daily marketings
Feel the rush of beating wings.
Watching always, wonderingly,
All the faces passing by,
There we see through pain and wrong
Christ look out, serene and strong.
Let Mary Webb bring us her Easter vision. Although she was a Shropshire woman, she spent some time in London, where these faces were passing CD.

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16 April: A true story and a modern parable.

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Ashford – next stop Canterbury!

John Renn, sometime leader of L’Arche Kent, shared this story, which fits well with the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognised Jesus in a moment of revelation.

For more than forty years I have been a member of the L’Arche Community that welcomes people with learning disabilities.

One morning, several years ago, after attending the morning Eucharist at the Cathedral, I was stopped on my bicycle by the level crossing in Saint Dunstan’s Street. I was feeling down; I was having a hard time. Helen, a member of the community, was on the opposite side of the street and the other side of the barriers. She noticed me and started waving, making joyous sounds and moving her body in excitement.

Helen was rejoicing in my being. She reminded me that God rejoices in my being too. Helen transformed my day.

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Paschal Candles from years past, on display in Canterbury Cathedral: Christ the same yesterday, today, tomorrow. Lead Kindly Light, and give us eyes to discern the light that will lead to the dawn.

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8 April: The Passover Sequence, The Morning.

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It was still dark when John came,

Tho’ the women had already gone,

With their bowls and their cloths,

Their herbs and oils,

Their spices and ointments.

Busy!

Fit for the King, they said.

John met them on the way,

Hurrying,

Worrying,

Fearful their strength would not move the great stone

Enclosing their Lord.

John came with news of Mary,

Safe,

Protected in his home.

John said, she had kept vigil

All the long hours,

Silent,

Sleepless,

Still.

Taking only a little water.

Waiting ….

Until, as dawn approached

She stood, at last.

Facing the death of the night,

The birth of the day.

John was exhausted,

He too had kept vigil

Beside her.

His charge – his mother.

We made him rest,

Take some food.

And so we sat,

Wordless,

Wondering,

Waiting, together.

Until, the darkness broken by the dawn,

The silence broken by the women.

Returning.

Breathless,

Breathing their unbelievable tale

Of an open, empty tomb,

All tidy and neat,

And of a young man in white

Waiting for them.

He must have been an angel, surely?

He had a message,

From the Lord, he said,

The Lord, Our Lord! would see us soon.

I heard John, beside me, breathe so softly …

He promised, oh, he promised,

We must go to him, now, now.”

And gathering us like chickens,

we ran to him,

Ran to our Lord.

SPB

Angel from Wreay, Cumbria.

 

 

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7 April: The Passover Sequence IV. The Evening.

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Saint Mary, Rye, Sussex.

It was darkness

When Nicodemus finally turned up.

With permissions.

With lights,

With tools,

A ladder,

Men.

Helpers so needed.

We had no strength, were exhausted,

Standing for hours

Waiting,

Watching.

It had all been waiting, these past days,

Our conversations muted.

Just being.

And what he seemed to want.

To be.

To be with us.

The love palpable,

Needing.

See …. they have almost released his hands.

When these Romans do a job,

They do it well.

There is no blood left to flow.

These men,

How delicately they support him.

How silent,

The chink of a tool,

A whisper,

As he is laid upon the ground.

So stony,

So blood-soaked

An execution ground.

See …. they remove those thorns,

No blood.

What possessed them to do that to him?

Why ……..?

So near now to Mary’s feet.

She doesn’t stir.

Watching, absorbed within herself,

Gathering her son,

Her pain,

All he has left to her,

Her sorrow.

See …. they clear as best they may

The detritus of the day

And wrap him in the cloth they brought.

They thought of everything!

We can think of nothing,

Except that he is gone

And the great chasm of loneliness we bear.

She moves as he is borne away,

Takes my arm.

Come home,

It will soon be dawn.

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4 April: The Passover Sequence, I. Yesterday.

 

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Yesterday we walked with him,

talked with him.

Tho’ he was quiet,

Wanting us there.

So much to tell us,

So much we could not understand.

Yesterday ….

He spoke often of his Father.

How could we know?

fishermen –

Caught within the rapture of their presence.

Unable to comprehend,

Held by the comfort of their closeness.

For it was, it was, … closeness.

More than himself,

A Son,

Submissive, obedient.

But what love, what love!

It touched us all,

Caught up,

Tax-collectors –

He told us that he would die,

Leave us

When all within was caught in that love.

What could we do?

Yesterday

We ate with him.

Oh! He wanted that!

We wanted that!

“… with desire…”

He spoke of his Father

Intimate …

With us, wondering men,

Not knowing how we should respond.

Embraced in such love.

I mean, people do not love like that,

Do they?

Such foreboding

As if this was the last time.

And it was.

He told us

But we didn’t understand.

So we walked in the quietness of the evening,

Walked with him …

what words can tell you?

If there were tears they did not flow,

Instead we, all of us,

Bore the weight of his leaving.

We came to the garden, deserted,

Full of dark shadows,

The lingering scent of thesun-filled day.

He went on alone to speak with his Father.

We were left,

Working men,

Fishermen,

Chosen by the Son of God,

His brothers,

Each weighed down by his own self’s grief.

We slept.

He came back to us and found us sleeping,

Such gentle reproach …

Could you not …

Even one hour … ?’

And once again

Our hearts’ heaviness

Forbade his comfort.

His friends!

One of the others said later,

An angel had come to him.

I did not see.

I was asleep.

Ashamed.

But when he stood

Facing the mob in their torchlight

His features were beaded with blood.

We could have fallen back into the shadows,

And we did,

We could have run,

And we did.

We could leave him

And we did.

But that Love!

Who are you?

Who are we?

So we fell back into the shadows.

And he went on, alone,

With the mob.

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11 February: Today’s Lodging House Fires

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Eliot wrote in this seaside shelter in Margate, Kent.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Go, go, go!’ is one of two-year-old Abel’s slogans for living. He still needs his daytime sleep but is not inclined or programmed to torpor. He has been ‘always present’ until recently, but he can now talk about time past, telling his mother what he has seen, and can grasp that something is going to happen ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow, after your sleep.’

What sort of reality could he not bear? It’s certainly difficult when Things don’t work as he thinks they should, and he can perceive intervention as interference – helping him has to be done discreetly and sensitively. But Amor Vincit Omnia – love conquers all. He can forgive our heavyhandedness.

And the realities that the lodging house inmates could not bear? Or the men drinking at 8.30 in the morning? Or the self-harming teenager? People with no ‘go, go, go’? Or you or me? Is giving money to beggars helping or not?

Amor Vincit Omnia. But how?

As the blind John Milton reminds us, ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’ (And listen, like the librarians.) Letting  a smile loose might also help. But the reality of others’ suffering can seem more than we can bear. The one end which is always present: death, or Omega, Christ’s eternal life?

Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his works. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

Revelation 22:13-14.

 

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January 28, Aberdaron VI: Take time.

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This is the back cover of the Aberdaron leaflet we looked at yesterday. I guess they knew, when they put it together, that people would read the back before opening it.

The evening I posted this, we had family around looking at the flames of our front room fire; earlier in the day Abel had me stop by the river for a few moments of staring.

A time to be thankful.

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December 18. Zechariah, an Unlikely Advent Star, V.

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The angel replied, “I am Gabriel who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news (1:19).

When I read of the angel’s reply to Zechariah’s disbelief and perplexity, I do not hear a rebuke in his words, as some interpreters have done. I hear reassurance. First, the angel tells Zechariah his name. His name is Gabriel. In the bible, to know the name of another being is highly significant: the name gives the other a sort of power over the one whose name is disclosed. God refuses to tell Moses his name in order not to give Moses power over him. He refers to himself only as I AM. But here, Gabriel allows Zechariah to know not only who he is but also what he does: he “stands in the presence of God.” He, furthermore, is God’s messenger: “I have been sent to speak to you….”

I can imagine Gabriel emphasising the words “sent” and “you,” as if to respond to Zechariah’s doubts about the angel somehow getting him mixed up with another and younger man. Gabriel tells him that there is no muddle. He is obeying what Almighty God has commanded. He has the right address, and knows exactly who Zechariah is, and how old. Zechariah is emphatically the right man.

And what is the purpose of this angelic visitation? Its purpose is to bring Zechariah this good news. Perhaps Gabriel emphasises the word “good” here, to assure Zechariah that, despite his confusion and doubt, this is not a tragedy. This news is good! Gabriel’s words might be paraphrased as: ‘Zechariah, you are not Job! This is a New Beginning for all humanity, and you have been chosen to play a leading role. You will be the father of the one who will prepare the way of the Lord! The new stage in salvation history is now starting, and you and Elizabeth will be instrumental in an event of truly cosmic proportions.

My own feeling here is one of great affection for Zechariah. Surely, Gabriel cannot be displeased with this humble man. He just needs time to take in the message.

Sometimes I need time, too. Do I allow myself time when I need it? Or am I hard on myself when I cannot immediately understand what God seems to be asking of me? Or, worse, am I hard on God? Do I turn away from God in frustration when his message seems incomprehensible to me? Sometimes I need to wait and pray. Do I?

SJC

This Cornish Angel carries the name of a parishioner, inviting our prayers.

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18 October, Saint Luke: Watching

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The wind whisked and sighed all night and

at sunrise-time some secret sun

shed what passed for light, but even

bats were sceptical of day and shot

by in fitful flight, long past their

vanishing-hour,

 

while wind kept sweeping through, rustling

like ladies in long silken skirts.

Nothing sparked or spiked in morning

sunshine that wasn’t, and yet,

this shadowed and speaking scene seethed,

strange with the life

 

I strained to see.  Autumn’s sunflowers

rocked and swayed, scarcely able to

stand, like tall thin drunks on their stems,

sleepy heads lolling, and they seemed

about to slither down, feet first,

into a heap,

 

while wind – I relished standing in

it – used its huge hands to swish the

leaves of trees and push tree tops round

in circles and made sounds like surf

foaming, swirling, hurling itself

on the seashore,

 

sliding back, all slick, and hurling

itself over and over –

 

such

dark, brooding exuberance –

 

such

fierce sibilance –

 

such lavishly

lively gifts of Being –

 

all mine, at dawn

 

as I stood

in the dark wind

 

watching.

 

 

 

SJC.

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Sister Johanna’s poem about Watching and the Wind seems appropriate for Saint Luke, who gave us his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, where he tells how the Spirit came in a great wind and settled over the Apostles.

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