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.

Candlemas

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I always feel in awe of this day, quietly standing in the stark cold. I do not enjoy the church celebrating Candlemas on the nearest Sunday because it is important to honour it on its proper day. I feel churches are doing a great disservice by not observing at the right time when many used to hold a wonderful evening service. Malcolm’s sonnet expresses and reveals the vulnerability of a new baby, the vulnerability of a new mother and the absolute sacredness in a new life. A new Light of Christ. So quickly in these modern times that innocent light of a child is suppressed or extinguished way before time; they have no chance to experience the goodness and beauty in life and in people. Instead, they are exposed to the guttural horrors of society and the meanness expressed through social media and the news reports.

The hardest challenge is to recognise and acknowledge the Christ Light in everyone and every living thing. Only then will we realise how absolutely beautiful our earth is and give proper respect to the vulnerability of life and our part in others’ lives. We must honour the child Christ Light and encourage it to flourish at every opportunity.

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My drawing represents three children which has ended up in a trinitarian suggestion, with their Christ Light above them. I wanted to reflect the Light that is in them but instead it ends up above them.

Candlemas by Malcolm Guite in “Sounding the Seasons”.

There is a new gallery page for people’s responses to Malcolm’s work which can be found here.

 

Advent Diary – 23rd December 2015

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Culmination

Today is the culmination of all things, the preparation coming together so that we can move forward from a place of great spiritual strength, even if it only lasts for one moment it does not matter. I love Malcolm’s wonderful reflection on the hidden names of Christ in the incredible O Antiphons, the play on words in its simplest form, on the references in “O Emmanuel” to items that reminded me of a Pilgrim’s bag.

A chap called Steven Payne has spent part of Advent walking as a medieval Pilgrim from Southampton to Canterbury, sleeping under hedgerows as a Pilgrim would have done, in anticipation of the destination the only hope to keep them on track. I thought of Steven’s blog in the single phrase of, “..O quickened little wick so tightly curled..” (from Malcolm’s sonnet, “O Emmanuel”) as a reference to a precious little candle stub to light on Christmas Eve to herald in the coming of Christ. This is the wonder of Advent and Christmas. All are waiting for this arrival with us – in us – as a new life and this new life is reborn within – in – us. Advent is the culmination of preparation of not only our home but our home within – our soul and our spirit; within we nurture that precious little candle stub with its curled wick.

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I had an idea or two for a drawing, a Pilgrim’s bag, the little candle stub, but I kept coming back to a photograph I took when on retreat at Alton Abbey in Hampshire. It was a moment of pure bliss when the Sun just poured in through the gap in the curtain and lit up the atmosphere with a ray of light. This chair in the photograph is a representation of waiting, the anticipation of the next step on retreat, a moment of awakening in creation and the Cosmos of Christ’s Light. The final great O of Advent. O Come, maranatha, GOD with Us.

Steven’s Pilgrims Progress blog can be found here.

Malcolm’s word can be heard here.

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Advent Diary – 22nd December 2015

IMG_20160104_172839Foundation.

We all need a solid and strong base in which to launch ourselves into each new day, into our lives. I am not sure that any of us know the end game, what GOD really has planned for us. Yet, he sets our corner stones and foundation focus to set about building our own structure though every now and then He comes to help repoint our stonework and realign our setting. It is no easy task to find our path reset as our ego wants to go on a different alignment to suit our purposes yet we do not appreciate GOD’s long term goal for us because we cannot see it and have no faith.

When I followed Malcolm’s last reflections, “The Word in the Wilderness”, I realised in a significant and profound moment that even though GOD put me back together after the most darkest period of my life, He would do it again and again each time I broke and fell apart. All I would need to do is to go before Him and hand Him my broken pieces and He would make me whole again, smooth over my cracks and forge a stronger bond to make me stronger, not only in myself but in my faith also.

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Despite the tape not sticking down the sixth great O, here is the Potter’s Hands remoulding me and putting me back together again. This process of understanding began when I attended Portsmouth Diocese’s “Inspire” year long course at the Cathedral. This came to me at the darkest period of my life, in Dante’s cave with no way out, at the door of the darkest place in the Universe and GOD gave me a hand, showed me a path and people who would help me. Here, on this course during the accompanied prayer week, I experienced the most profound of dreams as part of a conversation that I had with Christ every night during that week. And here, before I even knew about the Potter, I experienced my broken pieces in a pool of water and then, weeks later, my pot was whole and it has remained a positive image in quiet moments when I need to see it again.

2013-06-24 23.40.45 My original drawing, in oil pastels.

Malcolm’s word can be found here.

 

Advent Diary – 21st December 2015

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My Morning Star

I’ve been writing about my Morning Star all year. There is a modern song that has the repeated line, ‘He is like …’ and words full of wonder follow. Malcolm writes in the wonderful “O Oriens” reflection that the idea of Christ as ‘a rising light in the east’ as deeply moving and oh, I find this too!

To follow this thought after the darkness of despair is filling my heart to the brim. I would like Him to do this every day in order to beam away the sadness that sometimes grips too tightly and then I will reflect His joy more so. To know that He is always there awaiting me and then to fully acknowledge His presence, gives me comfort.

Malcolm speaks of the Dawn Treader and the translation of ‘Oriens’ to be ‘DaySpring’ I find equally beautiful. This mention of the Dawn Treader took me to my Coracle in which I often see myself adrift and I reflected upon this during Lent. The next time I see my Coracle adrift I will remember that my Morning Star, as DaySpring, surrounds me with His everlasting Water and I will remember that He always sustains me, like the Hart at the water’s edge. The everlasting Light, the eternal Spring, DaySpring, my Morning Star.

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My drawing, using my retreat painting, symbolises my Morning Star blazing through the darkness, His everlasting Spring flowing through the centre and into the seas upon which my Coracle rests. Set within the fifth great O.

Malcolm’s spoken sonnet can be found here.