Keats’ ‘gathering swallows twittering in the skies‘ have gone and last week I heard the plaintive call of a chiff chaff, a sign that other migrants are on their way back south, to warmer climes. We’re left alone to contemplate with the sad autumnal song of ‘the redbreast whistling from a garden croft’. We feel we’ve been watching summer’s ‘soft dying day‘. Continue reading “Michaelmas – angels unawares”
Imagine how miserable those first disciples of Jesus must have felt after the terrible events of Good Friday. The words of those two on the road to Emmaus say what they all must have thought ‘we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to redeem Israel……..’ (Luke’s Gospel chapter 24 verse 21) But then, on the third day, the most wonderful thing happened and all was changed.
Some months ago a friend staying with us shared how she had taken a short break in the North, including a visit to Durham cathedral. For her it was a sort of pilgrimage. While in the cathedral she said she was very conscious of the memories of two great saints, Cuthbert and Bede, who were buried there. Sadly, I have never visited Durham, but the words of my title from the poem by William Wordsworth encourage me to stay in the North East for this post. As a ‘southerner’, like our friend, I want to pay my own respects to these two great saints and pioneers of the Christian faith in this country. Continue reading “Great men have been among us”
There is no escaping from the influence of the sea here. Holy Island, Lindisfarne, off the east coast of Northumberland, is dominated by the rhythm of the tides as they ebb and flow. Nearby are the Farne islands with their colonies of seals and sea birds. When the day tourists have left and the causeway is covered by the sea the island is again cut off from the mainland. The noise and bustle of ‘civilisation’ seems a million miles away and Lindisfarne is left to the wind, waves, the gulls, and other sea birds and the few local residents. Continue reading “Holy Island”
I hope you won’t mind, but for this post I want to use a story as a sort of personal reflection on a theme dear to my own heart – the Father-heart of God. In the midst of a cold January spell of weather, I hope it will come as a cordial to warm us from the inside.
Oh Dear !
Just take a look at this rather sad looking toy rabbit. Nothing much to notice really – hardly deserves a second glance. It looks rather shabby, worn and neglected, unlike the other toys around which look shiny and new, fresh from their Christmas-wrapped boxes.
However, first appearances can be deceptive, as we will soon see: Continue reading “The Velveteen Rabbit”
Immensity cloistered in thy dear wombe,
Now leaves his welbelov’d imprisonment,
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come;
But Oh, for thee, for him, hath th’Inne no roome?
Yet lay him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars, and wisemen will travel to prevent
Th’effect of Herod’s jealous general doom;
Seest thou, my Soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how he
Which fills all place, yet none holds him, doth lie?
Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss him, and with him into Egypt goe,
With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe.
This old verse is part of the poet John Donne’s 7 verse poem ‘La Corona’ (The Crown) about the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Ascension.
What Glorious ‘Impossibilities’!
The Maker is made , the One who is everywhere is ‘cloistered’ in a womb, the All powerful Creator comes in the weakness and vulnerability of a babe, the God of love, becomes an infant needing a mother’s loving care. We walk on holy ground here!
The line that has been ringing in my ears since hearing this poem read out aloud (as all poetry should be) is ‘Immensity cloistered in thy dear wombe’.
How wonderful that though there was ‘no room in the inn’, there was room in Mary’s womb—a place where Immensity could be ‘cloistered’ – staggering thought. We can all identify with this, since we have all come from a mother’s ‘womb’ – a place of security and warmth were life can begin. We can identify with Jesus as he identifies with us, not just from ‘the cradle to the grave’, as we sometimes say, but from the womb to the Resurrection – the whole of life.
Have a heart felt and Christ filled Christmas this year.
A ferry boat full of excited visitors is making the short journey across the water to a small rugged island off Mull in Western Highlands of Scotland. With the gulls calling overhead and the salty wind blowing in their faces, there is a sense of expectation in the passengers. The smell, sounds, and sights in this remote place are refreshingly far removed from the hectic, noisy hype and creature comforts of our modern city lives. With some relief after a long journey, by land and sea, the visitors step ashore on this tiny, but very special place, conscious that they are stepping back in time as thousands of visitors and pilgrims have done before them. This is a ‘thin place’ – where heaven and earth seem to meet. It has been a place dear to many Christians—we feel a sense of connection with our early Christian forefathers here. This island is, of course, Iona. Continue reading “The Wonder and the Mystery”