‘Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest;
and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’. (St John 14.5-6)
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fisher and More! in you the Church and State
Of England—England of the years gone by--
Her spiritual law, her civil equity,
Twins of one justice, for the last time sate
On equal thrones. ’Twas England’s day of fate:
Ye kenned the omens and stood up to die:
State-rule in Faith, ye knew, means heresy:
That truth ye wrote in blood, and closed debate
By act, not words. A blood as red, as pure,
They shed, that brave Carthusian brotherhood,
St Bruno’s silent sons. Martyrs! be sure
That o’er the land, thus doubly dyed and dewed,
The Faith your death confessed, shall rise renewed--
A tree of peace for ever to endure.
Aubrey de Vere, 1814-1902
O Holy Ghost, whose temple I
Am, but of mud walls and condensed dust,
And being sacrilegiously
Half wasted with youth’s fires, of pride and lust
Must with new storms be weather-beat;
Double in my heart Thy flame,
Which let devout sad tears intend; and let
(Though this glass lanthorn, flesh, do suffer maim)
Fire, Sacrifice, Priest, Altar be the same.
John Donne, 1572-1631
Come with birds’ voices when the light grows dim
Yet lovelier in departure and more dear:
While the warm flush hangs yet at heavens’ rim,
And the one star shines clear.
Though the swift night haste to approaching day
Stay Thou and stir not, brooding on the deep:
Thy secret love, Thy silent word let say
Within the senses’ sleep.
Softer than dew. But where the morning wind
Blows down the world, O Spirit! show Thy power:
Quicken the dreams within the languid mind
And bring Thy seed to flower!
from the Letters of Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941
For those able to join me, it was a joy to be to resume public Masses yesterday, the last day of Eastertide and the great solemnity of Whitsunday. We had good numbers for both Masses, with blustery wind blowing through my domestic oratory at the morning Mass to add to the atmosphere and drama of the occasion. The afternoon Mass - our first in church since mid-March - was a particularly special moment. The light was clear and bright, the air crisp, and there was an overwhelming sense of calm and peace over the whole church. The choir, assembled in their (socially distanced!) loft, sang Hassler’s Missa Secunda, and motets by Palestrina and Attwood, and the final Regina Caeli was sung lustily by all, with a palpable sense of joy and relief. And now the Octave - Whit Week - begins!
Whitsuntide by Emily Manning, 1845-1890
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
from Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot OM, 1888-1965
I am Matthias; I am he who covers
The cloudy opening of the uttermost prison,
Where on went down - and is not re-arisen,-
Out of the Twelve who were the Lord Christ’s lovers,
About my name upon this day there hovers
A rumour of despair and desolation;
And even the Holy City’s glad salvation
Sighs for the memory of its exciled rovers.
I am Matthias, yea, and am another,
Installed within the bishopric of my brother;
I who am his oblivion am his fame.
I am the dream, upon your strife attending,
That all things, bound to a most perfect ending,
Shall be made one by Christ’s invincible Name.
Charles Williams, 1886-1945
Be thou then O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my forward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
O God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer;
Worldmothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
John Keble, 1792-1866
I was the one who waited in the garden
Doubting the morning and the early light.
I watched the mist lift off its own soft burden,
Permitting not believing my own sight.
If there were sudden noises I dismissed
Them as trick of sound, a sleight of hand.
Not by a natural joy could I be blessed
Or trust a thing I could not understand.
Maybe I was a shadow thrown by one
Who, weeping, came to lift away the stone,
Or was I but the path on which the sun,
Too heavy for itself, was loosed and thrown?
I heard the voices and the recognition
And love like kisses heard behind thin walls.
Were they my tears which fell, a real contrition
Or simply April with its waterfalls?
It was by negatives I learnt my place.
The Garden went on growing and I sensed
A sudden breeze that blew across my face.
Despair returned but now it danced, it danced.
Elizabeth Jennings CBE, 1926-2001
O take away your dried and painted garlands!
The snow-cloth’s fallen from each quicken’d brow,
The stone’s rolled off the sepulchre of winter,
And risen leaves and flowers are wanted now.
Send out the little ones, that they may gather
With their pure hands the firstlings of the birth,--
Green-golden tufts and delicate half-blown blossoms,
Sweet with the fragrance of the Easter earth;
Great primrose bunches, with soft, damp moss clinging
To their brown fibres, nursed in hazel roots;
And violets from the shady banks and copses,
And wood-anemones, and white hawthorn shoots;
And tender curling fronds of fern, and grasses
And crumpled leaves from brink of babbling rills,
With cottage-garden treasures—pale narcissi
And lilac plumes and yellow daffodils.
Open the doors, and let the Easter sunshine
Flow warmly in and out, in amber waves,
And let the perfume floating round our altar
Meet the new perfume from the outer graves.
And let the Easter “Alleluia!” mingle
With the sweet silver rain-notes of the lark;
Let us all sing together!—Lent is over,
Captivity and winter, death and dark.
Ada Cambridge, 1844-1926
Since blood is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloody fight;
My heart hath store; write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sin:
That when sin spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sin may say,
No room for me, and fly away.
Sin being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sin take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
Given the present absence of much parochial activity, today was a surprisingly busy eve of Palm Sunday. Changed – simpler, even – circumstances to usual preparations seem to have created more logistical challenges and obstacles to be overcome. How to convey the dramatic power and glory of Saint Matthew’s Passion narrative sans Chronista, Christus, Synagoga, and Victoria’s sublime choruses? How loud do I have to raise my voice in order to be heard on the livestream? Is that too loud? Will the birdsong coming through the open window distract? The logistics of how to make it all work in a tiny space are new. Finding a table (and a cloth, and a basket) for the palms. Remembering to have holy water ready. And the palms themselves (can’t unwrap them too early, lest they dry out before Mass). Knowing what sits on the legilium, and what doesn’t, and what I might need ready at the altar. Making sure folk know what’s on, when, how to access it. And so on. Laying out the vestments. Tending to the candles. And so on as Holy Week progresses. At present, then, parochial ministry is as much a matter of remembering things as it is tending to hearts, minds, and souls with the right words in homilies, the creative availability of the Sacrament of Penance, and new ways of keeping people together and connected. Such is the gift and the opportunity of ministry in these days.
Lest, though, we feel too overwhelmed or confused by this Holy Week now upon us, perhaps there’s something apposite in the muddled preparations and their inherent emotions of disorientation and loss, tinged with hope for a brighter future. Is that not the story of this Week, and the mood of Palm Sunday, in particular? Christ rides on in majesty, yes, but he rides on to die. The 17th century Welsh mystical poet, Henry Vaughan, captures the tenor well, and helps to put all this into its proper perspective.
Put on, put on your best array;
Let the joy’d rode make holy-day,
And flowers that into fields do stray,
Or secret groves, keep the high-way.
Trees, flowers and herbs; birds, beasts and stones,
That since man fell, expect with groans
To see the lamb, which all at once,
Lift up your heads and leave your moans!
For here comes he
Whose death will be
Mans life, and your full liberty.
from Palm-Sunday by Henry Vaughan, 1621-1695
In both the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, one week exactly before Good Friday, Our Lady of Sorrows is today commemorated. In the Ordinariate it is known as ‘Saint Mary in Passiontide’, a day to recall the sufferings of Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross of her Son. A poem to share for this day, Pietà, by the Welsh Anglican priest R.S. Thomas (1913-2000), written in 1966.
Always the same hills
Crown the horizon,
Of the still scene.
And in the foreground
The tall Cross,
Aches for the Body
That is back in the cradle
Of a maid’s arms.
It is the greatness of Thy love, dear Lord, that we would celebrate
With sevenfold powers.
Our love at best is cold and poor, at best unseemly for Thy state,
This best of ours.
Creatures that die, we yet are such as Thine own hands deigned to create:
We frail as flowers,
We bitter bondslaves ransomed at a price incomparably great
To grace Heaven’s bowers.
Thou callest: “Come at once” — and still Thou callest us: “Come late, tho’ late” --
(The moments fly) --
“Come, every one that thirsteth, come” — “Come prove
Me, knocking at My gate” --
(Some souls draw nigh!) --
“Come thou who waiting seekest Me” — “Come thou for whom I seek and wait” --
(Why will we die?) --
“Come and repent: come and amend: come joy the joys unsatiate” --
— (Christ passeth by...) --
Lord, pass not by — I come — and I — and I.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
An overcast Mothering Sunday today, in more ways than one, brightened a little by the use of an old rose Low Mass set in the Spanish style. This set, used only once a year, was given to me almost two decades ago by my then-Anglican parish priest in Manchester. He had, in turn, been given it by his confessor, a monk of the Anglican Benedictine community at Nashdom. So, a nice bit a patrimony on this most patrimonial of Sundays.
Had normal service been in operation we would have enjoyed the return of the organ, flowers at the altar, beautiful Marian hymns, rosa mystica incense, and the distribution of daffodils and simnel cake. Alas. Our opening hymn for the Solemn Mass was to have been The God of love my Shepherd is - the 23rd psalm - appointed for this ‘Refreshment Sunday’ in the English Hymnal. Words by Herbert, music by Dr Charles Collignon, who taught anatomy, of all things, at the University of Cambridge in the second half of the 18th century. His tune is thus called ‘University’. I think it sublime and deeply fitting for this time.
1. The God of love my Shepherd is,
And he that doth me feed;
While he is mine and I am his,
What can I want or need?
2. He leads me to the tender grass,
Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently pass:
In both I have the best.
3. Or if I stray, he doth convert,
And bring my mind in frame,
And all this not for my desert,
But for his holy name.
4. Yea, in death’s shady black abode
Well may I walk, not fear;
For thou art with me, and thy rod
To guide, thy staff to bear.
5. Surely thy sweet and wondrous love
Shall measure all my days;
And, as it never shall remove,
So neither shall my praise.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
Under the watchful and maternal care of Our Blessed Lady, a Mass of Our Lady on Saturday was offered today for my absent parishioners, concluding with the Ave, Regina Caelorum. A number of penitents came for confession afterwards. Thoughts turned to Donne.
Absence, hear thou my protestation
Against thy strength,
Distance and length:
Do what thou canst for alteration,
For hearts of truest mettle
Absence doth join and Time doth settle.
Who loves a mistress of such quality,
His mind hath found
Beyond time, place, and all mortality.
To hearts that cannot vary
Absence is present, Time doth tarry.
My senses want their outward motion
Which now within
Reason doth win,
Redoubled by her secret notion:
Like rich men that take pleasure
In hiding more than handling treasure.
By Absence this good means I gain,
That I can catch her
Where none can watch her,
In some close corner of my brain:
There I embrace and kiss her,
And so enjoy her and none miss her.
‘That Time And Absence Proves Rather Helps Than Hurts To Loves’
by John Donne, 1572-1631
A view from my seat in my domestic oratory which also serves, following the daily private Mass, as a location for the faithful to come and make their confessions (albeit outside, duly observing the 6 ft required for proper social distancing!)
As I sit and wait, I pray and reflect on the dizzying events of recent days: the loss of life, the loss of employment, financial woes, families disrupted, normal friendships suspended, the fear of infection. And in my own sphere of godly work, the increased level of anxiety amongst the faithful, now travelling through the second half of this Lenten season in isolation, without opportunity to attend Mass, and facing the incomprehensible experience, for the first time in their lives, of Holy Week and Easter without the beauty, grandeur, and force of the ancient and sublime liturgies that signal the change in spiritual mood and tempo from Passiontide grief to Resurrection joy.
Recognising the great privilege I have in being able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the presence of my family, I’m equally cognisant, perhaps more now than at any time in my life of priestly ministry, that what I offer to God I offer with a responsibility more intense and demanding than I’m able to recall. The hopes and fears, the hearts and minds of the faithful and their intentions, are with me more sharply, more painfully, and I feel it. Achingly so.
These domestic surroundings will now replace, for a time and season, the familiar setting of the parish church. It’s not the same, of course, but that difference has brought into sharper focus, for me at least, the great privilege of this Eucharistic banquet we so often take for granted. Perhaps, then, we can hope that this period of unforeseen Eucharistic fasting will make hearts grow fonder, rekindling a longing to return to God, their first love, and joy of their youth.
Glancing, in between words and ritual actions in the Mass, through the window into the emerging spring garden beyond, I’m reminded by George Herbert that hope is never far behind; that even as I plead the Lord’s Passion and Death, he ‘turneth all to gold’.
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.
A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
from The Elixir by George Herbert, 1593-1633
It is my Lent to break my Lent,
To eat when I would fast,
To know when slender strength is spent,
Take shelter from the blast
When I would run with wind and rain,
To sleep when I would watch.
It is my Lent to smile at pain
But not ignore its touch.
It is my Lent to listen well
When I would be alone,
To talk when I would rather dwell
In silence, turn from none
Who call on me, to try to see
That what is truly meant
Is not my choice. If Christ’s I’d be
It’s thus I’ll keep my Lent.
‘For Lent, 1966’ by Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007
Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach Thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God’s throne should stand.
‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height’.
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.
Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900
Yet earth was very good in days of old,
And earth is lovely still:
Still for the sacred flock she spreads the fold,
For Sion rears the hill.
Mother she is, and cradle of our race,
A depth where treasures lie,
The broad foundation of a holy place,
Man’s step to scale the sky.
She spreads the harvest-field which Angels reap,
And lo! the crop is white;
She spreads God’s Acre where the happy sleep
All night that is not night.
Earth may not pass till heaven shall pass away,
Nor heaven may be renewed
Except with earth: and once more in that day
Earth shall be very good.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
I’m asking very nicely now. Please help, Saint Blaise.
I can remember childhood days,
white candles held in front and crossed on my frail neck,
how from behind them I would look,
a roe behind two branches, apprehensively.
Mid-winter, and Saint Blaise’s Day,
my eyes were blinking, fixed upon the aged priest
wholly intent on praying just
to you, but bending over me kneeling before
the altar; true to sacred lore,
he muttered in a learned language neither I
nor he well understood. Yet my
health was preserved; you understood the formula;
you kept from me diptheria,
and inflammation of the tonsils, even croup,
with this result: I have grown up,
keeping, for half a century, so very well
that I’ve not thought of you at all.
O Bishop of Sebasta, don’t be hurt by my
ingratitude. Help me today!
You know the childish way in which we all go on:
we don’t look back, we cut and run
away along the drifting highway, letting go
the hands of higher beings; you
just smile at us as adults do, being wise, not hurt
by what is simply lack of thought,
smiling at us once more when, troubled, we return,
as I, I must admit, have done
today with beating heart… Please smile at me, Saint Blaise!
Yes, smile at me, upon my knees
before your simple altar-stone, a whimpering whelp –
smile if you like, Saint Blaise, but help!
The trouble is, you see, a treacherous disease
is killing me, starting to squeeze
my larynx tighter, and my air is running out,
just as a climber’s breath comes short
and climbing gets more difficult, or like a ton-
weight on my back; so I go on
in everlasting panting, while the surgeon’s knife
is threatening to preserve my life
by cutting up my wretched throat, that very throat
which I, farsightedly, held out
(remember, Blaise!) between your candles long ago…
Your consecrated larynx too,
when those so-wicked heathen were intent on killing,
blunt knives cut: so you know the feeling!
You know the blade’s edge and the taste of blood, you know
moments of desperation too
in the contraction of the torn windpipe, the fight
in terror as we suffocate.
Help! It is over now for you, you know it all,
you wise grown-up! You know quite well
what pain is bearable, how much is not too much
even for all the goodness which
is God, and what life’s worth… And even, maybe, that
death is nothing to write home about.
Mihály Babits, 1883-1941
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Blaise, thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may likewise rejoice in his protection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Jingle, jangle, star and spangle,
Over the wilderness wide,
Tall camels sway in the wilderness way
With their spacious, spongy stride.
And three grave kings with mystic things,
In search of the King Who is King of kings,
Three steadfast spectres ride.
Stars are shining, silver lining
Leaves of the palm trees grey -
If God should call, forsaking all,
Man must take the wilderness way;
And these must ride, nor ever abide,
On a road so long, through a world so wide,
To a Babe on a bed of hay.
‘Dearie, Dearie’, blessed Mary
Croons to her little Son.
And the three grave kings with their mystic things
Kneel low to Him, one by one;
And glad they are, though they came from far,
That they followed the light of the guiding Star
That led to Mary’s Son.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
The red king
Came to a great water. He said,
Here the journey ends.
No keel or skipper on this shore.
The yellow king
Halted under a hill. He said,
Turn the camels round.
Beyond, ice summits only.
The black king
Knocked on a city gate. He said,
All roads stop here.
These are gravestones, no inn.
The three kings
Met under a dry star.
There, at midnight,
The star began its singing.
The three kings
Suffered salt, snow, skulls.
They suffered the silence
Before the first word.
George Mackay Brown, 1921-1996
Sidney Godolphin, 1610-1643
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy Only Begotten Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may be led onward through this earthly life, until we see the vision of thy heavenly glory; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Fr Lee Kenyon
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