MAY

A FAMILY GATHERING on this most gloriously sunshiney day, for funeral thanksgiving for my Dad’s younger sister, May. A wonderful commixture, as all funerals are, of both sadness and enjoyed reminiscing. 82 years old Dad and his just-shy-of-90 years old brother Alan are the surviving two of ten siblings. Members of a large and spread-abroad family often only gather for arrivals, weddings and funerals. Some will barely know the day to day realities of each other’s lives – and the vast wealth of experience represented in such a gathering.

I met a delightful second cousin, Shropshire dairy farmer Neil, for the first time today. And Uncle Alan told me of his landing in Normandy at 6am on DDay – and his wondering most every day since how he ever got out of there. May was profoundly deaf for much of her life (30 years of which were enjoyed in Toledo, Ohio). The presence of some of her similarly deaf friends reminded me poignantly of the way she always made close eye contact in conversation. I was well into my late teens before the importance of eye contact for a deaf person dawned on me, and stayed with me, in all human relations.

I’ll especially remember May’s searching eyes – and the mind’s eye picture I have of her as a 5 year old clutching the hand of 7 years old Bob (my father) and boarding a train bound for Criccieth, North Wales – evacuated for safety on the eve of the Second World War – only a couple of years after the desperately sad and unexpected death of their young mother. Something about the sight of little ones then, as in parts of the world today, wide-eyed, with cardboard boxes strung about their little necks and modest little suitcases, ought to have taught humankind more about the folly of war.

Yes. There’s a thread woven in each and every family-life that binds, and a gladness – and a learning to be had – in little remembrances of shared histories. Something of life in the 1930s and onwards and upwards to the present day has been celebrated by members of my own family today – and by innumerable other families all over the world, too. It’s a gift, this remembering. A golden thread through good and ill, remembering still. A reflective love that binds.

AN ABSOLUTE JOY

Philip with Dareena (i)

photo/simonmarsh

GLORIOUS WEDDING – the “house team” at St Michael’s are all still glowing with the warmth of it all, even on a cold day. Today’s was a simply wonderful bringing together of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu traditions from Mauritius, Greece and England.

THE PRAYER from the Hindu tradition used in the celebration is here

Listen to the salutation of the dawn.
Look to this day;
in its brief course lie all the verities
and realities of our existence:
The bliss of growth, the glory of action,
the splendour of beauty.
For every yesterday is but a dream
and every tomorrow is only a vision,
but today well lived
makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a dream of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day,
for such is the salutation of the dawn.

THE GROOM’S MOTHER read from 1 Corinthians 13.1-13

The Gift of Love

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

THE BRIDE’S MOTHER offered the following readings

The four immeasurables, also known as the Brahma Viharas (Sanskrit) are found in one brief and beautiful prayer

May all sentient beings
have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings
be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never
be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings
be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

The Buddha taught the following to his son Rahula 

Rahula, practice loving kindness to overcome anger. Loving kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return. Practice compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return. Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success. Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice. Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally. This is because that is. Myself and others are not separate. Do not reject one thing only to chase after another. I call these the four immeasurables. Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others.

LOVE

The definition of love in Buddhism is “wanting others to be happy. This love is unconditional and it requires a lot of courage and acceptance – including self-acceptance”

What a joy! What an absolute joy.

Philip with Dareena ii

photo/simonmarsh

KIDS AGAIN

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Liverpool slideshow here

GREAT DAY. Caught the train to Liverpool with my sister Sarah and brother Nick. We can’t remember ever having had a day out, just the three of us, in our adult lives. Isn’t that ridiculous? Long, long overdue and great fun. Brought up in Wirral, when the port was still full of worldwide shipping traffic, we often went to sleep to the music of the fog horns on the river and we loved the Beatles, and the Mersey Underground, and the Ferries – revisited today – wind and rain lashing the Pier Head and the crossing over to Woodside. Regeneration of the city is absolutely astonishing and the legendary warmth of the people felt and appreciated. Fabulous hazelnut and caramel cake with morning coffee at Challain, incredibly evocative museum visit, great lunch at Bluecoat Chambers (I haven’t had a plate of Scouse for years), tea at The Hilton (hat-tip to the wonderfully friendly folks there), one very funny joke in particular that made me cry with laughter. Really great. Quick hello to parents on the way back to Bramhall. They still keep a supply of KitKats in their fridge :). Hey, kids again for a day. Thanks S&N x

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HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

FR RICHARD ROHR is one of the great inspirations of my life and I’m grateful to my friend Ivon Prefontaine for reminding me recently of Richard’s Daily Meditations.

In a series of Meditations on his “lineage”, whilst planning the opening of a new Living School for Action and Contemplation Fr Richard’s meditation on Sunday read

Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism

Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.

This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.

And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art

Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art

My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.

I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.

One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare – “to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.

My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative – Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo – Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s – The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.

What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Holy, Holy, Holy

Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …

3 & COUNTING

A QUICK DASH up to Castle Douglas yesterday for Kivah’s 3rd birthday party. The children were full of beans. And cake. Uncle Chris had made this fabulous creation and David is pictured as bearer and candle-lighter. 3, cake and carefree. Just as it should be. Lovely 🙂

27 ON THE 27th

David (in Ruth’s hat!), Rachel & Ruth, 31 July 2003

HOW DOES A BABY BOY become 27 years old in what appears to have been not much more than 27 minutes? Really. I don’t know the answer. But David Robert, born on the 27th is now 27 – and a devoted father, as protective now of his own wife and children as he was, and has remained, of his sisters. I’m proud of him, and of them. Happy birthday son.

CRAFTING CONTENTMENT

DO YOU EVER GET FED UP with Church? – asked one of the lovely souls at Jean’s Funeral Tea in the Church Hall this afternoon. “You know, with having to smile all the time and be kind to everyone, knowing that you can’t please all of the people all of the time? It must feel like being the Queen sometimes. You know? Can’t win.”

I was thrilled to bits with “like being the Queen” 😉 – who, of course, can and does win, every day …

Yes, I said. Of course I get fed up – with bureaucracy, with the self-interested and the self-certain, with those who actively seek to crowd out the needs of others, with noisy, overly-opinionated and hyperactive people. I get fed up with selfishness and with the self-righteous. I get fed up with the people who claim to follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth but who’d be horrified by his inclusive generosity close up. But I also remember, many years after hearing him, the man who asked the question “Why are the clergy so damned awful, my Lord?” – to which my old bishop replied (graciously, and with his customary twinkle) – “Well, because we’ve only people like you to choose from”. Can you picture the questioner’s face?

Yes, I get fed up with Church sometimes. Quite often, if I’m really honest. But never on occasions like Jean’s funeral. Gatherings like this one remind me that the world is full of quiet, gentle, thoughtful people like Jean – who raised a family, was a universally respected Guide leader for over 40 years, and a person who loved the quiet concentration and stillness that embroidery requires. Such people craft contentment and they model the best possible vision of the reign of God. They cheer me. And Jean would have smiled at teatime … it’s fitting that the Vicar’s tea-time plate bears only a modest selection. Mine did. But the tuna sandwiches and the seriously good sausage roll required a return to the table.

Yes. Fed up sometimes, just like anyone else. But cheered on and cheered up by faithful churchgoing people like Jean Baskerville.