This card is in my journal – it is from the Open Gate on Holy Island and the cross is from St Cuthbert’s island. Holy week is when I pray alone and together (to use a Northumbria Community phrase) every day which is unusual for me. I appreciate the coming together and the capacity to share the journey with others. It is not an easy week and I value in a new way taking it step by step so tonight it is Holy Communion with anointing as we remember the extravagant gift of the woman who anointed Jesus and the story will continue to unfold over the next few days. One of the highlights will be Saturday where we will share stories around the fire, stories that are real, that reflect all that Saturday means but which can never be without the glimpse of what is coming on Sunday.
I took this picture yesterday evening, it does not do justice to the quality of the light. The shadows had lengthened, the temperature had dropped, the river began to take on a yellowish tone as the sun was sinking. I have no idea how I know this is evening light when I look at the picture but I do.
Less than an hour later it was dark and in a village with no street lights that really does mean dark. If you read this blog regularly you will know that I have been reading about loss this lent and as I look towards Holy Week I am hoping I can live more in the present and follow the story as it unfolds day by day. Evening light helps me prepare for the darkness, it isn’t an immediate switch off, there is a gradual process, I am drawn into night time with the hope of sunrise and morning light. However, I need to learn to live more comfortably with the growing shadows, with the darkening sky and learn to watch and pray…
I walked past this door today, I am not sure where it goes. Possibly into a church but the church is at a different level. It sort of looked like an ecclesiastical door to me! I have walked past it many times but today is the first time I had really noticed it. Perhaps this is because at the moment I am waiting for a couple of doors to be opened.
Closed doors can be immensely frustrating, particularly when they seem to be locked from the inside. They can also be very exciting wondering what is beyond them and speculating as to whether the risk is worth it to walk through, not knowing what may be on the other side. The doors I am looking to open are in many ways quite prosaic, they are not life changing doors but that has not always been the case. (This is not one of those posts with a hidden meaning or anyting). Waiting for a door to open can be one of those times for lots of faith and prayer and as time goes on without it opening lots of questions too!
This week we are at a paediatric chaplaincy conference and while there are stories of joy and hope and encouragement, there are also times of brokenness and woundedness. We are presenting a paper on marker posts and shelters and Celtic spirituality and drawing on prayers from different Celtic traditions. This is one from the Iona Community which seems to be appropriate:
As the day ends, we come to you, O Brother Jesus,
you, who understand us
so much better than we understand ourselves:
you, who accept us
even in our own brokenness,
you, who walk with the wounded and the weary
along the road of our world’s suffering:
you, who offer grace and healing
for the bruised people and places
of our time;
you, whose Spirit illumines
even the darkest night;
Yes – we do come Lord,
just as we are,
Peter Millar An Iona Prayer Book (1998 Norwich Canterbury Press p50).
Today we had the privilege of meeting and listening to Brother Paolo from the Taize community. As well as sharing about what it means to be in community, he also shared about the helpfulness of the discipline of praying 3 times a day. When the bell rings, the 100 or so brothers go and pray whether they feel like it or not.
The main thing that struck me was that he shared that he remembers a time after he had been in the community about 30 years, he had the thought that he was not really sure how prayer worked, but that it was as important to him as eating 3 meals a day and breathing. I found this really encouraging to keep praying even when I don’t feel like it or being sure of what I am doing. By the way, this is a great deal of the time.
Some people we are close to are going through very difficult times at the moment – this image is one which fills us with hope – and gives us something that we can pray. Sometimes a book is worth reading for one thought we find in it, this is one of those times.
The image of Christ going through locked doors is perhaps the most consoling within our entire faith. Put simply, it means that God can help us even when we cannot help ourselves. God can empower us even when we are too weak and despairing, even minimally, to open the door to let him in.
Reference Ronald Rolheiser Forgotten Among the Lilies New York Image Doubleday p148
Yesterday afternoon I took Mum to Birmingham Children’s Hospital to sit in the chapel lit by candles. It was a space for people to come and go as they please sustained by some hot mulled punch and chocolate biscuits! I sat gazing at the crib, watching and waiting, reflecting on the crib and the words on the prayer card left for people to pick up:
Heavenly Father, may this crib remind us of the coming of your Son.
To all who are troubled, grant peace of mind.
To all those who are in doubt and uncertainty, grant guidance and inspiration.
To all who are suffering in mind or body, grant comfort and healing.
Above all grant to everyone who prays here, the faith and joy of spirit that the angels proclaimed here at Christ’s birth.
Grant this through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Christmas isn’t always an easy time and sitting in a hospital chapel looking at a Christmas tree covered in stars, you see the beauty but then you notice that each star has a prayer on it and while some are prayers of gratitude, others are of hope and petition. Half an hour of watching and waiting has helped to still me and reflect on the birth of a child that means that God is now with us.