Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week we have had some sun, and mostly clouds, which serves as a pretty good metaphor for our condition in the pandemic at present. There are some signs that the goods we used to enjoy are returning, but also the brightness of these is shadowed over a bit by clouds of uncertainty. And this continues to weigh heavily upon me, as I’m sure it does upon you. I find spending time in prayer helps me to manage this heaviness, as spending time in God’s presence always lightens and enlightens. I certainly spend much more time in prayer these days than I ever have before, and it is one of my chief delights in this time.
Recently I have been joining in morning prayer with Dean Robert Willis, dean of Canterbury Cathedral which is filmed each day and put up on YouTube. I highly recommend his morning worship. I like his approachable wisdom, so steeped in the Bible, in prayer, and in a wide knowledge of poetry, history, and practical experience. I also enjoy the fact that the cathedral cat likes to join in from time to time. My own cat has become quite spiritual lately, always joining me during my morning prayers - though perhaps this is because I spend a period of time not moving so he can settle in on my lap quite comfortably!
I also have a deep attachment to Canterbury Cathedral. I studied and lived there for four, and met my dear husband Dave there. We used to get our morning coffees on a Saturday from Neros - in a building that once hosted Queen Elizabeth I, and then go over to the cathedral and sit in the cloisters and drink them, amidst the beauty and calm of that place. I used also to go to evensong after a day using the Cathedral archives, and it really felt like spending a bit of time in heaven. Dean Willis often led the service, though I’m sure he never noticed me in the pews. So I have enjoyed my mornings with him during the last few weeks.
On Thursday he read a poem by D.H Lawrence which I would like to share because I think it speaks to our lives at the present time. We’ve come through hopefully the ‘worst of it’ and we look forward. Lawrence sees this looking forward as something both fearful and magnificent, with a bit of a twist at the end that ties both the fear and the joyful anticipation together:
Song of a Man Who has Come Through
Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course though the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.
D.H. Lawrence (1914)
You may not have thought of D.H. Lawrence as a Biblical scholar, but he knew his Bible, and in 1914 when he wrote this poem. The horrors of WWI were beginning and the dubious promise that it would be ‘over by Christmas’ which few really believed, he shows that he is also a prophet in some ways reminding his readers through references to Chapter 2.35 in Daniel, Isaiah, chapter 8, Luke, chapter 20; and John 3.8, Genesis 18, Revelations 3.20, and probably quite a few more I haven’t caught! What an amazing creative act in the middle of world trauma.
Dean Willis speaks of this poem by telling us :
[this poem] ‘So full of imagery, the Garden of the Hesperides like the original Eden, full of fruitfulness and beauty and gifts and wonder which can be reflected in our lives, but most important of all those three angels. Reminiscent of the angels who came to visit Abraham and received his hospitality and brought news of all that would follow. It’s a poem full of courage, but also of the fine wind which is always a sign of the spirit at work’.
It’s a poem which reminds us that we live in a larger time than the present, and that through God’s Holy Spirit we can be and do that which God’s desires of us, and the key is the knocking at the door, ‘admit them, admit them’.
The church wardens and myself, in consultation with the area
dean and working with the PCC, continue to plan for the opening of the churches
for an appropriate and safe Eucharist service sometime in August.
As you can imagine, advice changes weekly, sometimes daily, but we are
moving forward. The services will not
‘look’ like what we are used to, but I believe that the Holy Spirit will be
with us and bless us, and help us to be those good fountains, those well-heads.
With all love and Blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas