Ascension Day in Ordinary Times, Easter Season

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Thalassa.

My parish church used to observe such feast days on the actual day with beautiful but simple evening services. My parish is now victim to convenience and these services have been unceremoniously cut from my community’s calendar. It is so wrong to do this. Church is not a Sunday observance which it has fast become. For some people, church during the week in a quiet service was the only way they could attend for a variety of reasons from forced work commitments to hidden persecution, of which persecution on a Sunday still happens today for a Christian. The only church door open for me at the moment is the local Roman Catholic church and that is only because it is now run by a strict patriarchal order of monks – better than nothing? They might not share  Communion with me but they give me much needed spiritual space within a sanctuary.

Malcolm’s sonnet for today from his book, ‘Sounding the Seasons’, has me reflecting on the line, ‘whilst we ourselves become his clouds of witness’ and I wonder if we really are that any more if the church only observes feast days through convenience on the nearest Sunday? Even the smallest attendance on the right day warrants being a cloud of witness, two or three attending would suffice and by being a presence and by opening the parish church door today we become a witness.

How can we ‘wane darkness into light’ when our own church puts its light under the bushel and hides it behind a closed door? Are we so used to grey days now that we no longer lift our heads to see the sun peeking through the cloud for that brief moment? Does that not make you smile any more, to know that His presence is always there? Do we let the sea overcome us and the waves swell that we no longer understand the right response?

As an addendum, Christ makes me feel uncomfortable in challenging me to respond in the way that I do because I want to feel His joy and not my sorrow. Having said that, if I do not feel uncomfortable then I become stagnant and my growth stops, it is not an easy process. Being a Christian woman is not an easy path, not for me anyway because I am spurned to feel so passionate about particular things and I have to challenge myself why I feel the way I do in order to make sense of my world and Christ within it, and Christ within me. Some days leave me empty.

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My idea stuck for today’s reflection before I read Malcolm’s sonnet but after finding out we had no service tonight for Ascension. Christ as the Light coming through the clouds. I am going to add a veil to the drawing so that we have the invitation to lift it up if we wish to seek Christ. This might not be important for me now at this moment but could be in months to come when I revisit my diaries. The Greek word “Thalassa” is one that has been much misinterpreted and one used as an example in highlighting the importance of the right translation. The tale we had as NT Greek students was that the NIV translated it to ‘waves’ in the passage when Christ tamed the storm (Mark 4:35-41), to the point where it could have been understood that Christ could only command the waves and not the entirety of the seas. Are we then, as witnesses, to behave like waves or to respond collectively like the seas?

Malcolm’s wonderful sonnet can be found here.

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Easter Tides -Sunday 17th April 2016

IMG_20160423_230921The Gatherer.

What is it about these last three days that has compelled me to write more? Reading Malcolm’s sonnets have certainly triggered a response, especially today’s profound blog entry and sonnet for ‘Vocation Sunday’ (no longer called this). Whilst Malcolm writes and reflects on a wounded Church, I do think about those ‘bad shepherds’ who lead not for Christ but for their own ego and for their idea of Christ’s message without perhaps returning to the primary source (which all good theologians should do!) of the Gospels themselves and in particular, the Gospel of John.

For those few who read my Lenten Diary from last year (2015) might have picked up upon my internal battle with the Church and my own Parish. I’ve been away more than attended because of my leg injury recently and I feel less like belonging now more than ever but I did make it to the main service today. I became aware of our beloved female ordinand’s struggle (I did not ask what) however the Psalm response was about a cornerstone and I looked up and I recognised her as the cornerstone of the Church but as one much hidden (like a gemstone in the streambed); but I had this overwhelming image of my Grandma’s hands holding up her apron to gather in the fallen breadcrumbs, the ones Christ entrusts to us.

It is for us once more to gather in His breadcrumbs into our aprons and to keep them safe, guard them safely for Him until this latest storm passes overhead. Philip Newell talked of the falling away of the institution of the Church but not of Christ. It is for us women once again to go unnoticed in the background whilst doing the most crucial task of all and men who have the eyes to see and hears to listen will join in with our silent activity until He is ready for us once more.

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Malcolm’s wonderful blog and sonnet can be found here.

 

Easter Tides – 14th April 2016

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Fragrant Tears

Wanting to write and not being able to write are moments that I now accept. It’s a void space of knowing not which way to go, I’m without direction and without prayer. What has been on my mind I do feel compelled to write about and this has been spurned on by reading one of Malcolm’s poems from ‘The Singing Bowl’ about the old altar, “Communion Table, St Edward’s, Cambridge”.

Sat here in my little garden, in a rare and longed for moment of sunshine, Malcolm’s poem stuck with me and here, on my old and weather worn garden table I had already placed a small bowl of water, a candle, a terracotta bowl of burning incense and a dried red rose. ‘Here’s the old forgotten altar’ I thought and I set about drawing the image in my mind – the rose of Mary Magdalene, the Living Water and our prayers offered in incense on an old altar that has not been forgotten and often honoured and remembered by the women down the ages whilst the men raged on in theological battles.

We have one today in my own Diocese … ‘new expressions’, ‘pioneer ministers’ or whatever they want to call it, in a bid to get young blood in the door at a huge sacrifice to the already attending faithful. It is not the change but the way it has been done, at the expense of others’ spirituality (already a delicate thing in today’s society). Liturgy has survived for over one thousand years and will do so for a lot longer. I remember the words of John Philip Newell in his new book, “The Rebirthing of God”, that the Church will fall away but it is our duty to ensure Christ continues whatever the latest fad or finance pushes onto us.

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DSC_2674 Diary entry and painting on the old table.

The link to Malcolm’s sonnet, here it is called “This Table”, and is the fourth sonnet on this page.

DSC_0016 John Philip’s website can be found here.

Ash Wednesday – Lenten Times 2016

IMG_20160212_212632 Ashes and Sand.

Ash Wednesday arrived. I made it to the 10am service and I didn’t realise or think ahead to the solemnness or pilgrimage that it marks the start of. A pilgrimage without a physical walk in the sandstorm that rages within; not so much unknown this time, I am looking to seek out those transgressions that need to be smoothed by the sandstorm. There is no visible way through a sandstorm, all the references for guidance are gone, like in hillfog where the cairns are silent sentinels waiting to be discovered and marking our arrival on the summit to offer shelter.

In this internal sandstorm I know I will have GOD’s cloak to comfort me in times of need and I know that this time I will not be alone even though there will be moments that it will feel that way, I won’t feel totally abandoned and desolate; this time I know that I have to stop and ask Him for His presence and He will be there. Christ will sit by my side to give me strength and courage to move on. Even though I can only offer that moment, one day at a time, He already knows that I will battle with that thought each day and yet, He waits.

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My drawing reflects a momentary glimpse of an image in my mind that trys to depict the precipice of the sandstorm that awaits me or that I am already in. The circular / spiral motif is one that I seem to unconsciously draw time and time again and so I stick with it. In my linear timeframe, Christ gave me a grain of sand and in this was all what He is (long before I was aware of Julian of Norwich’s hazelnut!) and the circular motif was how I tried to convey and share my experience with my prayer guide at the time. It is an image that is significant to me.

I am not following Malcolm Guite’s “The Word in the Wilderness” for Lent this year but I will dive into the poems as his work is always a treasure trove of rich references to theology and literature, thought, poems and reflections that needs our attention because we need it. However, I wholeheartedly recommend that you try it out and bathe in its lavish resources to explore Lent this season x

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Gosh, we had sunshine and warm days last Easter!

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/

Lenten Diary – Holy Week, Easter Sunday 5th April 2015

IMG_20150408_165422 Easter Rising.

I spent the night in a broken feverish sleep. The events of the last couple of weeks had caught up with me, I guess. On my iPad there was a live streaming of the Franciscan Order in the US conducting a rare service enacting the burial of Christ. I understand the Remembrance of a loved one’s passing but a re-enactment of the burial deeply unsettled me and bled into my feverish dreams. Being awake on and off through the night also reflected my desire to attend the 8am spoken service at Church  and the blessing of the new Eucharist Candle. I wasn’t sure I was well enough for the early morning walk but I made it.

Malcolm’s reflection of George Herbert’s “Easter” is a remarkable insight and incredible understanding of Herbert’s language and the depth of theology within this poem. The journey of Lent and Holy Week ‘has only been one day’. From today we wake each morning taking Christ’s hand to guide us through the hours. The song we sing in every fibre of our being is His, my Morning Star.

I should never seek to veil Him within but turn to His Light with every troubled thought and with every joy in the day no matter how small. We have – I have – been on an incredible journey through every emotion yet His Golden Thread was taut within me and His hand grasping mine. This is an expression not justified by words.

It is the art of listening and the art of seeing that I have to practice every moment of every day to acknowledge His presence in my life. And, to accept me for who I am and to know that I am loved. We are all pilgrims. We are Easter People (I love that!). We live for the Resurrection each day. Thanks to Malcolm for this incredible journey, encouraged by his messages and support. Pentecost and Ascension await.

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My drawing gave me some dilemma as to what to portray. I had a good and fixed idea of the rising Morning Star, of a stream in the foreground but I have a desire to make this a bigger piece of work than my notebook page. So, I have revisited a drawing completed at the end of my accompanied Prayer Walk with Portsmouth Diocese’s Inspire Course that I attended. This drawing represents the smallest grain of sand in which Christ occupies. He showed me that He is everywhere, in every drop of water, in every grain of sand. I will try to go from here to recognise this in every day.

IMG_20150308_005621 (c) Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press, 2014.

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/

Lenten Diary – Holy Week, Easter / Holy Saturday 4th April 2015

IMG_20150408_000253 Easter Fire.

We wait in anticipation for the coming joy in the Resurrection. How wretched Christ’s family must have been on this day. It reflects my own bereavement as I remember my beloved Auntie who had gone to her final rest this past week.

I wrote the above first before reading Malcolm’s reflection and I find that I have echoed his words so I must be connecting at the right level. It is a bizarre day caught in the betwixt and between, that magic space between the moon setting and the sun rising. Malcolm’s two “Stations of the Cross” sonnets, XIII and XIV are exquisite in capturing the absolute epitome of Easter Saturday; his words resonate deeply within me.

‘This is ground zero, emptiness and space

With nothing left to say or think or do,

But look unflinching on the sacred face

That cannot move or change or look at you’.

(“XIII Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross” (c) Malcolm Guite 2014)

We move forward then from the harsh empty Cross to the cold tomb and wait in hope for my Morning Star in the flickering flames of the Easter Fire.

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https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/

IMG_20150308_005621(c) Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press, 2014

Lenten Diary – Holy Week, Good Friday 3rd April 2015

IMG_20150406_170439The Sharing of One Breath.

“He takes our breath away to give it back”

XII, Stations of the Cross, (c) Malcolm Guite, 2012.

The Hebrew word for ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ is the same. I remember this from my first year at University; it seems so long ago now. The sharing of the One Breath. Breathes life into us, takes it from His only Son, gives it back at Pentecost. Malcolm quotes John 20:22. This ‘one breath’ is a universal concept within most indigenous tribes, from the same divine one and only Creator. Breathing, warmth, water, nourishment are the basics of life on Earth. If you think about the Earth’s atmosphere, we all essentially share the same breath at a molecular level though sadly man has managed to pollute a fair proportion of it. We must look at the ecological impact of our greed, do as Jesus said to own nothing but a staff and the clothes on your back, share your wealth and give thanks for what we have.

Life should be simple if we choose love and compassion. The utter emptiness of Good Friday reminds me so harshly how empty and pointless the World is without love and on this empty and desolate day I ask you all to love one another. There is always hope. We retake our vows before the stark and bare empty Cross, in our church it is a simple bare wooden Cross devoid of everything and yet we bow before it.

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My drawing has attempted to portray me – or you – before the Cross but yet, in its starkness it is a living Cross full of life and energy and the One Breath is shared with us all and those who retake their devotion before it.

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/

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