Tag Archives: water

19 March: 3rd Sunday in Lent, Jesus and the Woman at Jacob’s Well.

 

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We were bowled over by the beauties of the Baptistry of the Abbey of Saint Maurice in the Swiss town of that name. It is worth a detour, or spending a couple of hours between trains to make a journey into a pilgrimage.

In John’s Gospel, chapter 4, Jesus was returning to Galilee from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when he sat down by Jacob’s Well and asked a Samaritan woman to give him a drink of water. The well, of course, was there before the Jews and Samaritans went their separate ways: ‘Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you say, that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore,’ said the woman.

Instead of getting into an argument with her, Jesus tells her:

 The hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth.

This text is used for one of the Scrutinies – special prayers within the Sunday Mass for those preparing for Baptism at Easter. We can pray these words for ourselves, too:

God of power, you sent your Son to be our Saviour. Grant that these men and women, who, like the woman of Samaria, thirst for living water, may turn to the Lord as they hear his word and acknowledge the sins and weaknesses that weigh them down. Protect them from vain reliance on self and defend them from the power of Satan. Free them from the spirit of deceit, so that, admitting the wrong they have done, they may attain purity of heart and advance on the way to salvation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Let us pray, too for the grace to treat as sisters and brothers all the baptised, of whatever Church.

Let us pray for the freedom of everyone to adore  God, in church, mosque, synagogue or temple.

 

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February 21: Inter-galactic Discoveries XXIV, It’s cold outside.

 

It was cold, too cold for pseudo-Chihuahuas to do more than put their noses outside the door but they were enjoying people watching from the bay window.

 

‘Look down there! It’s little Abel on the sands. What is he doing?’ Alfie was half wrapped in his blanket which had become a shared blanket, as so much was shared, freely, by the Ossyrians in dogs’ clothing, almost without their realising it was happening.

T got out his binoculars and soon focussed on the toddler, clad in blue wellington boots and a warm all-in-one suit. ‘Very interesting. We should go join them.’

‘But what is he doing?’ demanded Ajax, who could read the amusement shaking T’s shoulders, but not the reason for it.

‘Come and see,’ said T, shaking the dog leads, and off they went, past the Waste Land shelter and along the prom. Just by the Jubilee Clock, the dogs yanked their leads from T’s hand, turned tail with one accord and refused to go on to greet Will, Abel and his mother. T had to follow. When something made Will look up he just caught a glimpse of the dogs mounting the steps to their front door, with the Director some yards in the rear. He did not realise they were avoiding Abel, and T never told him.

Indoors, Alfie shivered: ‘Abel was wading about in that cold water at the edge of the sea and splashing rocks and laughing! I’ll never understand humans. He was enjoying it and his mother and Will were letting him do it, and they were laughing too.’

‘They can’t help sharing his fun, and they aren’t the sort to stop him doing it completely. Sun, Sand and Sea. That’s why we came to Margate.’

‘But not Sun, Sand, Sea and Splash!’ grumbled Alfie.

‘Lighten up boys,’ said T. ‘Laughter is part of being human. Why the wife of Abraham, mother of the great religions, even laughed at God and called her son ‘laughter’ or Isaac. But I don’t think the humans totally understand it themselves.’

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Sunset over T and Alfie and Ajax’s house, Margate, January 2017.

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9 January: The Baptism of Our Lord

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When my ten-year-old godson was baptised, he chose a new name, one that was important to him: his Father’s name.

When my son was baptised he was given names from his grandfathers and godfather. Our daughter’s names, too, were chosen to say something about who they were and where they came from.

We can learn something about a person – and their parents and ancestors – from their surnames.

And so it is when Jesus is baptised; we are told something about him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

While John was right to say that Jesus did not need his baptism of repentance, by accepting it Jesus witnessed to his relationship with his Father – a relationship John encouraged his penitents to renew at a personal level through a symbolic death and rebirth in the water.

Let’s pray for the grace to be faithful to our baptism by daily witnessing to our relationship with the Father and by daily renewing that relationship in our moments of reflection and repentance.

MMB

The Baptism of the Lord, Basilica of the Holy Family, Zakopane, Poland.

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18 December … Like the Dew-fall.

 

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Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,

and let the clouds rain the just:

let the earth be opened,

and bud forth a saviour.

Isaiah 45:8

One Sunday our walk to church took us across a field of crystals, each blade of grass glowing in its jewels, our path marked out by one who had gone before. I was reminded of the good bit of the new translation of the Mass, where the presiding priest asks God to ‘send down your Spirit [upon the Bread and Wine] like the dew-fall‘. Maybe the image does not work in big cities but that’s no reason to discard it.

The same verse from Isaiah is often used in Advent – ‘Heavens drop dew from above’, ‘Rorate Coeli’ and so on.

 

Scientifically, what’s interesting is that dew does not exactly drop from the heavens; it is water that is in the air all along, and appears when conditions are right. When the air is saturated with water vapour. And the dew is seen when eyes are open to it.

We do not need a thunderstorm to impart the Spirit. (1Kings 19:12) The Spirit is already  within us through baptism – water again! We can let ourselves be saturated, with grace, with mercy, at least sometimes. After all, it is for us to prepare the way of the Lord by letting the Spirit be visible in our lives. If one person sees the spirit of love in me today the Holy Spirit will be able to touch them, and change them a little. And maybe change me a little.

Amen to that.

MMB

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14 December: Recognising God in the world.

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Today is Wednesday in the third week of Advent, .and also the Memorial of Saint John of the Cross Priest and Doctor of the Church. He was a Carmelite friar who was outstanding in his holiness and knowledge, as his many spiritual writings testify.

The first reading from Isaiah 45: 6-8; 18, 21-26 is telling us that “Apart from me, (God) all is nothing. I am the Lord unrivalled. There is no other god besides me, a God of integrity and saviour;… Turn to me and be saved. From the Lord alone comes victory and strength”. As we are in this Advent period of waiting for Christ, how open I am to receive him? How prepared am I to welcome him and accept him and His good work in me? Am I ready to recognise him in my daily life?

In the Gospel, John the Baptist sends his disciples to go and ask Christ if he is the Messiah, or are they to wait for another? (Luke 7: 19-23) God comes to me in my daily activities and in the people that I meet each day. I meet God in creation, in the stillness of the lonely valleys…flowing with fresh water’… as St John of the Cross says in his Spiritual Canticle. I pray through the intercession of St John of the cross, that God will give me the grace to be strengthened, and rooted in the Love of God, that I may have the power to comprehend with the saints the breath, and length, and height and depth of the Love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (cf.Ephesians 3:18). Amen.

FMSL

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December 3, Jacopone da Todi 7: A Host of Pardons

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Jacopone’s exhilarating phrases about his great attraction to the tremendous graciousness of God are tied in with other, simpler phrases about how humbly he waits to experience the bubbling spring of God’s forgiveness. This alone can free him from punishment he has had to undergo, for being so outspoken on behalf of Christ.

“Almost paralysed, I lie at the pool near Solomon’s Portico;

The waters have been moved with a host of pardons.,

And now the season has drawn to a close. When shall I be told

That I should rise, take my bed and go home?”                  (Laud/Letter 52)

(John 5:10)

“Why did you leave the golden throne resplendent with gems,

Why did you put aside the dazzling crown?…

Were these the actions of someone drunk, or out of his senses?

I know that all knowledge and power were yours

Even when still a child; how could so much be contained

In such a tiny frame, made of common clay?

What can a creature offer you, O Highest Goodness,

In exchange for your gift of yourself?

Your love, I think, brought you no gain.

Does gold need tin for its splendour to be seen?

For love of man you seem to have gone mad!

Myself and all my riches,

The treasure I brought with me when I exchanged

The glorious life of heaven for a cruel death.”                     (Laud  65)

 

This quietly bubbling fountain in a slab of stone is inside the Portiuncula Hermitage retreat centre at Clay Cross, Derbyshire. It is run by the Minoress Franciscan Sisters. Follow the link to learn more.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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29 November: Jacopone da Todi 3. Reflections of our Divided Selves.

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If each person is like an iceberg, with 90% hidden beneath the surface, we have to decide whether we will only notice playful surface images, or peer more profoundly, helped by faith, into our buried and still unhealed depths. How important is it to us to encounter the real self, the life that is ours because it is given by God? We assume that our pleasant opinions of how homely and friendly we are can float reliably across any flow of social encounters ahead. Jacopone’s experience taught him differently. So he challenges his own soul to be honest about itself.

“Galieno, Avicenna, Hippocrates

Never understood how the ills of the body

Are linked to those of the soul.

They meet head on in anger

And create such a turbulence

That I wish I had never been born!

Up with you, accursed one, no more delays!

Our sins are inscribed on our foreheads;

What we thought we did alone,

In the privacy of our chamber,

Will now be displayed for all to see.”                       (Laud 15)

 

The thought of how God judges his life, and weighs up the love he has shared or held back runs underneath this poem. He admits his soul’s twists and turns, imagining, rationalising and quick, careless decisions, are unbeneficial. The heart, the meeting point of body and soul, cannot keep the two in harmony. Outbursts of passion or dislike begun in the body prove too much for the badly tutored soul to manage.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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November 27: Jacopone da Todi 1. A Poetic Challenge.

 

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This Wakefield scene shows us a provocative contrast between two ways of imagining the inner life of any person’s soul. Sometimes we feel churned up, or even seething. At other times, a lovely calm clarity runs through our inner world, and reveals our potential for containing tranquillity. On this footing we can show others how the world might appear in that condition.

Perhaps we more often have an opportunity to move from the turbulent to the calm than we realise. Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi regarded our awareness of these formative moments as the key to a faith-based personality.

“We were a mighty host, encamped on the heights,

But the waters of the flood have risen and covered us,

And taken from us the power to pray,

Which alone could keep us afloat and heal our wounds.”  (Laud 30).

 

The power to pray consists to a remarkable degree in the ability to welcome calm into our lives, to become attuned to the Spirit who provides calm, and to begin to acknowledge those areas of wounded memory within us where healing is needed.

Jacopone had a troubled life, beginning with the sudden death of his young wife in an accident. But God was speaking to others very often through his poetry, bringing hope and sincerity where before there had often been only pomposity, cravings for luxury, and abuses of power. We could try to nurture the moments of poetic calm in the course of a week, to let healing begin.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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22 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XV The Sands of the Sea 3

 

Margate we live in hope

In the end, all teasing and parakeet safaris forgotten, the three Ossyrian agents did end up trooping down to the beach. It was late November and the water, reflecting the slate-grey of the overhead sky, was far too cold for a swim, yet, in the distance, a frisky pair of Labradors did frolic in the icy surf; oblivious to the numbing temperature, having a fine, wet, afternoon romp.

The two Chihuahuas, ever wary of dogs much larger than themselves, nevertheless watched the pair of Labs from a safe distance with unfeigned interest. The sight of the splashing dogs triggered an intense recollection for one of the Chihuahuas. Ajax vividly remembered the day in mid-September, less than a week after their reunion with the Director in Margate and the whole southeast in the grip of a great muggy heatwave, when ‘T’ had thoroughly amazed them all by shrugging his shoulders and muttering, almost with resignation, ‘This is ridiculous. I mean, here we are sweating away inside and outside, while just across the street lies a great, luscious, refreshing body of cool blue water. Guys…’ he paused, gulping, ‘I don’t care how cold the water is this far north (wistful memories of the languid Pacific still fresh); I’m going for a paddle…aw, what the heck? Make that a dip!!’
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The Chihuahuas were scandalised to the feathery tips of twitching tails as, ten minutes later, they crHarry_Dubai+Seaowded into the great bay window, damp noses pressed against the glass, and watched the Director cross the busy street outside dressed in flip flops, a garish blue and white ‘Tommy Bahama’ swimsuit, and grey tee. With a tattered beach towel tucked under one arm he headed down to the Margate sands, kicked off the flip flops, shed the tee…and resolutely waded into the surging tide; waist deep then up to his chest…shoulders, until he suddenly disappeared.

Mesmerised by the sight, both Chihuahuas, watching through the high bay window, were, at first, frozen in a static tableau by their stunned amazement. Seconds later, Alfie, thoroughly confused by ‘T’s eccentric behaviour and more than a little worried, began pawing and leaping at the unyielding glass, barking his frantic concern. Some relief was eventually had when the Director’s head of greying hair could be discerned above the water and, finally, the rest of him (clad in the vividly blue and white ‘Tommy Bahamas’) as he drifted, floating on his back; seemingly suspended at a mystical junction of blue on blue where the immensity of the Thanet sky met its match in the English Channel.

When the Director returned to the flat a half an hour later he walked with a jaunty step and there was a discernable sparkle in his deep brown eyes. The pair of Chihuahuas sulked in a corner, narrowed eyes appraising him with suspicion. ‘T’, for his part, nodded enigmatically before excusing himself in order to shed the soggy swim trunks and pat down his salt-spiked hair. He eventually returned to the front room dressed in normal fashion and looking distinctly refreshed. Plopping down in the old charity shop rattan chair tucked into the bay he beamed at the two Chihuahuas, ‘Guys, that was just great! I can hardly believe that we’ve been here all this time and right across the street, well…’ he trailed off with a blissful look on his homely face.

Daring to break his silence and fully aware of the gravity of the situation, which was about to border on insubordination, Alfie piped up, ‘But ‘T’, how could you??!’ He shot a worried look at Ajax in a silent plea for support, ‘We HATE getting wet!!’ ‘Yeah, I reckoned that was the case a long time ago.’ Far from sounding upset, the Director didn’t seem concerned at all. Cracking a yawn, he continued, ‘You didn’t think I noticed that when we go out for a walk that you two will even dance around a puddle – just so your paws won’t get wet?’ The canines were freshly scandalised when ‘T’ laughed out loud. ‘And remember the look on Ajax’s face when he jumped on the green scum covering Will Turnstone’s pond thinking it was grass…and disappeared under the water? Oh, just priceless!!’ There were tears of mirth in his eyes. ‘Why??!! How could you?? I just don’t understand, ‘T’,’ Alfie beamed; and was there just a hint of reproach in his tone? ‘T’ suddenly blinked. ‘Oh! I get it… You two think that if someone likes something that you don’t like it must be wrong. Yeah?’

Ajax would have blushed if Chihuahuas were capable of that sort of thing but Alfie refused to be cowed by the Director’s bantering tone. ‘Well,’ he growled, ‘isn’t it?’ The Director’s mirth gave way to familiar reflection as, reaching down, he lightly scratched behind the diminutive tricolour’s ears. ‘Sometimes it is,’ he agreed without reluctance, ‘but there are other times when one Chihuahua’s ceiling may be another Chihuahua’s floor.’

TJH

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15 November: Mancunian Mercy, XIX Century Style.

manc.cathedral.Sporch by David Dixon at

Back in England, an old guide book[1] tells how the South Porch of Manchester Cathedral proclaims ‘To the honour and Glory of God and in thankful acknowledgement of many mercies this porch is erected by James Jardine of Manchester and Alderley Edge in the Year of Our Lord MDCCCXCI’. A door of Mercy then?

Jardine built himself a fine villa in the clean air of Alderley Edge a few years later. He had become head of a major cotton spinning firm, Shaw, Jardine and Co, despite humble beginnings. By ‘mercies’ did he mean personal prosperity? Was that God-given or derived in part from the imposition of lower wages in the dangerous spinning mills some years before this porch was built? The owners then showed no mercy to the workers who made them prosperous.

James Jardine provided in his will for two drinking fountains to be installed in Central Manchester. A measure of mercy at least. (Matthew 25:35)

mercy.carving. (328x640)Lest we feel too smug about the attitudes of rich people a century and more ago, we too all carry the taint of Mammon; in particular it is nigh on impossible to clothe oneself without wearing something produced by underpaid workers, if not modern slaves, overseas, where we only see them briefly when their factories collapse. How do we show mercy to them?

[1] Bell’s Cathedrals of England: The Cathedral Church of Manchester by the Rev Thomas Perkins, London, George Bell and Sons, 1901, p16. At http://www.ajhw.co.uk/books/book350/book350x/book350x.html

Manchester Cathedral, S Porch by David Dixon at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3870797 . Creative Commons Licence.

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