Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Oaks and angels

Chagall's depiction of Genesis 18
Surprisingly - a sunny August bank holiday yesterday, and a happy walk in a different direction from usual, among some majestic ancient oak trees. And, as befits the last public holiday before Christmas, several signs of autumn on the way: toadstools, berries and a mass of heavy fat acorns. (Along with all the tempting autumn catalogues in my inbox and on the doormat).

I'm fond of oak trees, and in awe of such old ones as these. I always feel they should be approached and greeted with some kind of reverence. The oak is a symbol of wisdom (befitting its longevity) and of hospitality, because such a variety of life is sustained in and around an oak tree - more than any other kind of tree, I believe. This always makes me think of Abraham's hospitality to the angels of the Lord under the oaks of Mamre (botanists, please don't tell me they were a different type of oak! The connection will do for me.)

During this summer I've had the joy (and nervousness - I'm a high-scoring introvert!) of being welcomed into new fellowship with some like-minded people. Oh, subtle discernment! Am I willing, in gratitude for the hospitality I've been shown, to pay it forward by looking outward and welcoming the next new person to arrive as one sent by God? Or am I secretly hoping that I'll simply go on being entertained as an angel?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Lord of all being

Christ enthroned on the rainbow, from the Doom painting at Wenhaston, Suffolk

Woke up this morning with this hymn running through my mind... I remember singing it at school. (The words are by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and you can read about him and it here.) It felt good to sing it out loud while HALO and Canis Minor were out for their early walk (my turn comes later).  I love the imagery of God as both "throned afar" and so close to our hearts - and as "centre and soul of every sphere".

I'm not sure about the third verse, though... I have known God's smile at midnight and I love clouds - I'd rather think of them as "God's ambassadors" (cf Mary Oliver) than symbols of sin. What do you think?

Lord of all being, throned afar,
thy glory flames from sun and star;
centre and soul of every sphere,
yet to each loving heart how near!
Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, thy softened light
cheers the long watches of the night.
Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn,
our noontide is thy gracious dawn,
our rainbow arch thy mercy's sign;
all, save the clouds of sin, are thine.
Lord of all life, below, above,
whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
before thy ever-blazing throne
we ask no lustre of our own.
Grant us thy truth to make us free,
and kindling hearts that burn for thee,
till all thy living altars claim
one holy light, one heavenly flame.

Source: Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #125

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


I love the beautiful (and, to some, surprising) reversal in the icon from which this detail comes, of the Dormition ("Falling Asleep") of the Mother of God. The risen Jesus receives and cradles his Mother, swaddled like a baby, as her life on this earth ends. She who carried him in her womb and her arms is now carried so tenderly by him. Tomorrow's feast, the Dormition or Assumption has been called "Mary's birthday into heaven."  As it happens, it's also the anniversary of my baptism - when, as a similar tiny baby, I was received into the Body of Christ. So by his grace I can dare to call it my " birthday into heaven" too. 

Not much time to write now, and no time tomorrow. I'm off to Buckfast Abbey in the morning, for a summer school run by the Maryvale Institute on Art, Beauty and Inspiration. So I'll leave you with one of the best things I read last year, by Archdruid Eileen. And some beautiful images of Mary collected on the art blog I've mentioned before - It's About Time.  Enjoy, and a Happy Feast!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sorry, St Lawrence

This time last year I wrote about not quite having lovely red tomatoes ready for St Lawrence's feast day. Earlier this summer I planted some again...

Above you can see how far they've got. And no, they're not mini cherry tomatoes - they're supposed to be big juicy plum ones. Is it this summer, or is it me?  Ah, well. St Lawrence and I will have to wait for our luscious home-grown tomato salad a little while longer. Hold the mozzarella...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Cupcakes revisited

Annunciation With Virgin Reading (detail) Lorenzo Costa  c1460-1535
recently posted about "Cupcakes of Thought". Silvana's comment there gave me an idea... For a while now I've been thinking how I might collect together some of the snippets and quotations I come across that touch my heart. If you click on the Cupcakes/Quotations tab at the top of the home page (or you can click here if you prefer) you'll see the work in progress.

I toyed with calling it Thought For The Day, but that's been done, and there won't be one every day. (Mind you, I could always cite Psalm 90:4 to cover myself under the Trades Descriptions Act).  Anyway, it really is a work in progress and it will be a fairly random and of course subjective collection. I'm enjoying doing it - do have a look! And there are comment boxes there too so please tell me if anything I've shared resonates with you too. I look forward to that!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Pope Francis on Ignatius

Just a quickie today - I thought you might like to read the text of Pope Francis'  homily at the Gesù on Ignatius' feast day last week.  You can do so here.  He quotes the Spiritual Exercises - and, for those who have struggled with the Rules For Thinking With The Church (who hasn't?) there's some good stuff!

The image of Ignatius above is by Maria Laughlin. And a h/t to Christ In 10,000 Places for it.  AMDG!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Lammas Thoughts

Winslow Homer (American artist, 1836-1910) Waiting for an Answer.  Some discernment going on here!

A h/t to a lovely art blog, It's About Time, for this picture.  And another h/t to Catriona for her reflections on the parable of the wheat and the tares. (Dear Catriona, if you're reading this by any chance, I did try to comment but, well, you know what your comment thingy's like!)

I had my own "aha" moment with this parable a few years ago, listening to a homily at Ampleforth. The field in the story is not, oh so emphatically not, "them" and "us". It is me ('scuse, grammar: it is I). I am the field. My life - inner and outer - my experience, my choices are the fertile ground where the wheat and tares grow. And while they're both young seedlings I can't  tell the difference. 

I recall a period in my working life when there were tares aplenty in the field. Often when I've looked back I've beaten myself up for not recognising them and thus causing myself - and others - a lot of pain. But reading Catriona's post reminds me how much rich and healthy wheat was growing there too - wheat that might not have grown had the situation been different, or if I'd tried ham-fistedly to root out the weeds. I'm sorry about some of the things that happened, but now I can give thanks for the time I spent in that particular field; I see now how I'm still being nourished by the fruits of that harvest. 

What I hope I've learned, and hope that with God's  grace I might do a little differently another time, is that then I blithely thought there was nothing but wheat in the field. Now I hope (though I still have plenty of blind  spots - by definition, more than I know!) that I'm just that little more aware that tares will grow where I least expect them. With experience I might just recognise them sooner as they grow.  I won't try to root them out myself, though, as then I'll risk pulling up the  tender shoots of wheat. I must "pray the Lord of the harvest" (cf Luke 10:2).  It's more about the art of paying attention - giving my energy to nurturing and watering what I want to grow, what will give health and blessing to me and others. 

And another thing I've noticed in that parable. When at harvest time the tares are properly cut down they are burnt. I'm sure some version or other says that they're "thrown into the oven".  I like to think that even the tares are not wasted, just given their proper treatment. They give light and heat, perhaps around a merry post-harvest bonfire or even used as fuel for the ovens where bread is baked from the wheat with which they grew. 

Just some thoughts for this Lammas (Loaf-Mass) harvest day...