EX MARIA VIRGINE

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ON THE FEAST OF ST JOSEPH OF NAZARETH: ex Maria virgine. Out of the virgin Mary. What an epic tale. What an extraordinary and glorious incarnation – putting-flesh-on-the-bones-of – the story of God’s Life-giving creativity from the lifting up of clay to the Potter’s Wheel in the Genesis – onwards and upwards and outwards and inwards through the generations until our time; and onwards and upwards and outwards and inwards through rank upon rank of angels and archangels and the whole glad company of heaven, through all eternity.

WE – every single “you and me” are “The Body of Christ”, the Anointed, the shaped and moulded and breathed-into, the taken, the blessed, the broken and the given. ALL of us – in the farthest flung reaches of the Universe. Now that’s an exciting kind of a “catholic”. Anointed Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Christians and Sikhs and Agnostics and Atheists. Yes! – an exciting kind of “catholic” – and good news, too, so a vivifying kind of “evangelical”. Anointed. Breathed-into. That’s Divine. Ex Maria virgine.

SCATTERING DARKNESSES

I LOVE TO PRAY an advent blessing …

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you
and scatter the darknesses from before your paths

… and I also love Mary Oliver’s poetry, that knows the Sun so very intimately. “Why I wake early” speaks to the Eternal Warmth:

dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –

Here’s the Advent message! ha, ha! – intended for every living, breathing product of Divine Love:

Good morning, good morning, good morning

Thank God for the poets. Thank God for the poets. Thank God for the poets! And read them, and hear them, and be present with them, and pray with them, that every other living thing, whosoever they may be, and wheresoever they may be, and whatsoever their present circumstances – they may thrive both after and Before The Sun Rises (Stay put, just for a moment; click this link to share a good morning with one of my friends).

Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Thank God for the poets in every time, and in every tradition, and in every place.

Jesus of Nazareth came to be known by some as Christos or “Anointed” – because God breathed in him, and because he both knew and prayed for dawning and good morning, for everyone, always, “on earth as it is in heaven”. The Life of the Life-Giver breathes in you and me too, we, the anointed in our day, who sing in every tongue to the sun of righteousness and –  learning to breathe as one – say and pray

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise!
Triumph o’er the shades of night:
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return,
till thy mercy’s beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine!
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief!
Fill me, Radiancy Divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley

DOCTOR, PRIEST & PIZZA

BE TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your minds – Romans 12.2

Heartfelt thanks to Andrew Moore with whom I’ve just spent an exhilarating seven hours talking non-stop (apart from a quick hike down to Pizza Express where the conversation continued apace) on art, cosmology, medicine, music, poetry (all the way through biblical, to Shakespeare, to modern, “edgy”, international stuff), prayer and prose, philosophy, psychology, psychiatry, quantum physics, spirituality and theology, world faith traditions – and everything in between.

Today’s been one of those really glorious experiences of all things “coming together” that serendipity occasionally conjures up for us. Having met to talk only once before, and that briefly, we’d planned a more orthodox sort of a meeting between 3 & 4pm. And I’m wondering how to begin to describe the avenues we’ve walked – a medic and a priest – and the world scenery we’ve taken in.

Answer: I can’t. Not in a short piece! But the height and breadth and width and depth of this simply fabulous TED talk (discovered with another special friend and thinker with whom I’ve talked and dreamed dreams until well-nigh “kingdom come”) by the marvellous Benjamin Zander – charismatic conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, The Youth Philharmonic, Teacher at The New England Conservatory of Music, and author of “The Art of Possibility” – might go some way to giving just a flavour.

Benjamin Zander is, for me, one of the world’s exemplars of what it means for a person to have what Patsy Rodenburg has simply called PRESENCE.

Don’t aim to increase from 3-4% – why not go for 100%? …

SURREXIT

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THE RESURRECTION LIFE – loving and living and dying and rising …

Happy Easter

ICE HOT

TOGETHER

THERE’S NO DOUBT that I’m a person easily moved to tears – and I’ve always been glad of the fact. Being able to express at least something of what goes on inside our hearts and souls is a great blessing, a release. I’m glad, too, to be a person of faith. I trust life’s fundamental goodness and believe deeply that if one wants to make a contribution to building a better world one has to do that lovingly and respectfully. Love and respect for creation are among the most basic attributes I believe about God. So it’s no surprise really that I’m often moved to tears of sadness by the continuing cruelties, divisions and searing battles between peoples all over the world – some of them, shockingly to me, within the Anglican Church I love and serve.

The Church’s infighting (and that not just within the Anglican tradition, of course) seems of such ridiculous and insignificant consequence as I watch the news footage about the atrocities in Syria – but little divisions set up between anyone at all can so quickly escalate into the makings of full-scale battle – and dismissal of the importance of another’s right to be. I simply cannot believe that GOD would have any truck at all with the battles about who can or cannot be a bishop, or who can or cannot reckon themselves married. The biggest statement that God makes to this world is that s/he breathes LIFE into it all, forever calling that life to come forth from the tombs of darkness, and from win/lose debates and death, to live in glorious light.

I’m very well aware, of course, and always have been, that there’ll be many who will, without a second’s thought, dismiss me as a simple man, a Christian “lightweight” (what a terrible, overused appellation that one is) – someone with little or no grasp of the “complexities” of the world – and all of those things are doubtless truer of me than many would know. But I’ve played this song over and over again today. And it brings tears of joy to my eyes and a longing in my heart each and every time. There’s a simply gorgeous universality about it. It calls us. There’s a real vocation for all of us here: a vocation to the (sometimes silent) music of Life. May God grant me the grace always  to “keep it simple.”

Some words they can’t be spoken, only sung

SOUL STIRRING POETRY

POETRY IS SOUL STIRRING. That’s its job. Stirring souls. From the Greek poiein – to make or compose – poetry is an exercise in listening, in making things new, in vivifying, bringing life and maintaining and sustaining it. Poetry opens windows onto the depths of our souls, and the depth always surprises us, opens us, stretches us, appeals to a deeper generosity of spirit, a wider inclusivity. We will never cultivate a love for poetry if we’re inclined to maintain fixed positions – on any subject or object under the sun.

On the move …

Poetry is on the move, dynamic (explosive), changing, creating, morphing. Poetry is beyond the control – of any one human person – even beyond that of the poet. “The Spirit listeth where it wills”. Poetry bears the very Word of Life to hungry hearts, souls, minds and bodies. Poetry is a wide open door and every man, woman and child is invited to enter or depart her portals entirely at will. Poetry – this particular kind of creativity – invites us to celebrate being free to be.

God is the Great Poet. Word has been breathed into the Universe – and thereafter, through the divers gifts of Spirit, trusted to do Word-stuff – something different, even when similar, in every hearer, indeed in every element and atom of Creation. My prophet doesn’t look, sound or make exactly the same sense to me as yours does to you. Your “Christ” and mine might be similar whilst also being different. God – and Life itself – are seen through different lenses. And God is apparently OK with that. We can no more say that another’s faith “is not true” than we could say the same of a poem. Truth is a matter of perspective and a matter of the Word heard; what, where, when and by whom.

Sacred writings

That’s why the world’s sacred writings – the Bible amongst these – are full to bursting with glorious poetry. That’s why, in the Church of England, The Book of Common Prayer is granted a place of high honour. That’s why the late twentieth century Church of England’s Common Worship points to Divine activity with supremely beautiful phraseology such as “the silent music of your praise”. Poetry itself might be bound between two covers, poetry binds up, gathers, collects – in the sense of drawing together, but poetry never seeks to imprison. Poetry recognises that the real grace of words is their function as vehicles for every person’s imaginative creativity and expression. Christian truth, as one example amongst the world’s faith traditions, is intended to hold and to celebrate the glorious fact of diversity.

I think that’s why poetry enters most every conversation I ever have with a would-be priest. Conversation with four ordinands today, two within our parish and two without, led naturally and fluidly into the sharing of poetry. That’s always rewarding and hopeful in my book. I’m assured thereby of a willing and loving open-mindedness and generosity of spirit.

All of one race – the human one

Further reflection upon the gifts of Pentecost at the Eucharistic celebration here this morning brought us again to that glorious affirmation in the King James Version of the Bible (Acts 2) – “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”. Different words and different languages for different people, but all of one race – the human one.

The sharing of three poems – each written by people of different religious traditions – was well received by one person after another at the fiftieth birthday celebration of our Associated Church Fellowships group here in the late afternoon. And – gloriously – in the relatively few words of the poetry a large assembly multiplied the power of the words by a factor of 50 or more persons present. Each of us hears a different measure of truth from exactly the same set of words – and are, at one and the same time, bound by a common, shared experience.

A Vision …

And then there was the sharing of Psalm 122. “O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” Jerusalem is the big word here so we unpacked it. Jerusalem may be translated “City, or Vision, of Peace”. (Oh, can you feel the irony?). Let’s pray the psalm poetically – “O pray for the peace of the Vision of Peace”. Ah! There’s OUR point and purpose. Whether we’re praying for or about the representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths that look to Jerusalem, or for or about any other form of reaching out (or in) to the Divine, what is of fundamental importance is that we pray, with all our hearts and souls and minds and bodies, with our very lives, for the peace of the Vision of Peace. How are we to set about this in practice? By cultivating a love for the poetic, by being open-hearted, by being willing to recognise that the Divine Source of all our lives is “making all things new” and “turning the world upside down”.

Ria Gandhi, a writer friend who lives in Mumbai shares my affection for the works of Rabindranath Tagore. I love the 78th Song Offering in Gitanjali – with which I ought to draw this post to a close … (for the wholly pedestrian reason that I’m due at my aqua-fit class in half an hour!)

When the creation was new and all the stars shone in their first splendour, the gods held their assembly in the sky and sang ‘Oh, the picture of perfection! the joy unalloyed!’

But one cried of a sudden – ‘It seems that somewhere there is a break in the chain of light and one of the stars has been lost.’

The golden string of the harp snapped, their song stopped, and they cried in dismay – ‘Yes, that lost star was the best, she was the glory of all heavens!’

From that day the search is unceasing for her, and the cry goes on from one to the other that in her the world has lost its one joy!

Only in the deepest silence of the night the stars smile and whisper among themselves – ‘Vain is this seeking! Unbroken perfection is over all!’