December 2012


 

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.

 

Robert Frost, In Hardwood Groves

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How can we come towards one another, not with the aggression that alienates, but with the love that unites? There is no easy answer to this; a major part of prayer can be occupied in learning it. But one very practical thing helps: thanksgiving. Not humility—for which of us can claim to know anything about that?—but that cheerful, gracious act of being thankful Always there is something in every situation for which one can be thankful. The situation which contained all the tragedy in the world was one which was redeemed by thanksgiving: Jesus, in the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread and gave thanks. When we meet the betrayals and diminishments of daily life, which often turn our energies into sour aggression, it is possible in Christ to learn to take them and give thanks—not in any romantic or false way?

When we ourselves betray and diminish others, we also have to turn that aggression into peace within ourselves.

God does not leave us alone in this work. To quote from a sermon someone gave a few years back, God ‘takes my head between his hands and turns my face towards him. And though I struggle and hurt those hands, they do not let me go until he has smiled me into smiling; and that is the forgiveness of God.’

 

Mother Mary Clare SLG

 

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Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The 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 go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe

John Donne (1572-1631)

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It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

Denise Levertov (1923–1997)

From my stall in the Chapel the East Window soars above drawing the eye into the detail and capturing the spiritual imagination. This is much helped by the changing time of prayer and seasons that shed light that opens up the colour and story.

The window was designed as a memorial to Prince Albert in 1862-63.At the top of the arch of the window is Our Lord in Glory; the upper section pictures the Archangels; the centre the Resurrection and the lower (pictured here) the Adoration of the Kings.

I wonder what strikes you about these details of the Nativity? The organisation, the design, drawing and painting are imaginative and skilled. The faces are delicate and the colours very fine.

Beyond this the attention and focus on the Christ child captures the whole scene. The Kings offer their gifts. The attendants in their best robes look directly at this child. In their attention there is adoration too. They see in the Christ child something worthy of reverence and even worship. There is meaning and truth and purpose. This goes even deeper as they express this in the offering of themselves and their gifts.

It is too easy to loose attention and take what is around us for granted amidst the activity and self-preoccupation of life. Next time look again at the detail and the story of this window and see in it a gentle draw into the love of God revealed in the birth of Jesus.

This childCo has the power to draw us in: it invites us to question, yes, and also to worship and to wonder; to see and search for that which can set us free for grace and love. The Nativity shows the heart of love; the sheer awe and wonder of God’s life. It promises the joy, a deep and lasting joy, which comes from knowing that we are loved by God in Christ.

 

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Look at love…
how it tangles
the lover and the beloved

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life

why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad?
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how unknown merges into the known

the beloved grows
right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be?

 

Rumi

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 O Come, O Come, thou calling child:

                       the creatures, those both tame and wild,

                       the weak and powerful, coax along,

                       and change their trembling into song.

 

                                                  Rejoice ! Rejoice ! the vuln’rable

                                                  shall make us all insep’rable

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