‘And puzzled wakers lie and listen hard To something moving in their minds’ backyard.’
These words appear in a poem by P J Kavanagh called ‘A Blackbird in Fulham’ comparing the eponymous bird with John the Baptist. At our Clergy Conference we were fortunate to have Bishop Stephen Platten as our speaker. A respected writer on Liturgy he gave gentle wisdom and humorous insights. In his most recent book ‘Animating Liturgy’ he refers to mimetic liturgy, a kind of performative liturgy that reveals truth. This seems so true of how we start the liturgical year in Advent. Movement—darkness into light; sharing light; dispelling darkness; stillness; waiting—texts of hope and yearning. These speak first to the sub-conscious before comprehension. Something stirs in the mind’s backyard. May we all stir and be stirred by Advent.
‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded.’
Tree Planting & Harvest at the Cathedral
Before the Harvest Liturgy in the Cathedral on 11th October, there was a short tree planting ceremony in thankful memory of Peter Dowd. The tree is appropriately positioned between the spire and the school, reflecting the two places he gave such service to as well as to the wider community. The order of service had these words as an introduction.
Peter served the School, the Cathedral and the whole community over many years. He was Chairperson of the School Board of Management for over a quarter century and oversaw the new building. He was an officer of the Church of Ireland Primary Schools’ Association, a member of Diocesan Council and Synod. He was also churchwarden of the Cathedral during many renovations. In the community he was Mayor of Lismore and an integral part of the flourishing Immrama Festival. He was a colleague and friend to many.
The Trees by Philip Larkin
The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too, Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In full-grown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Bishop Michael was with us. The church was bountifully and beautifully decorated and the choir led us in joyful worship. Bishop Michael spoke about prayer as so aligning ourselves to the will of God, as to rise up and be a part of the answer to that same prayer, particularly in relation to climate change and the environment.
A great supper was held afterwards, followed by the draw for the wonderful quilt made and generously donated by Gwen Roe. This raised €1,800 for the Cathedral Restoration Fund.
As we await the season of Advent (beginning December 1), these words remind us of the glory of the upcoming season:
This is the season of solitude, when we listen and watch.
We find warmth in the signs of your presence.
This is our season to make room, a time to make ready.
For we shall join in the angels’ chorus. Peace on earth, goodwill to all.
The following prayer expresses thanks for the beauty of the world and for its resources, but quickly puts us in a parable with Lazarus at our gates, with no access to those same resources. This year as we give thanks to God, let us also express solidarity in our prayers and giving to those in need. The Harvest collection this year is for Bishops Appeal. Bishop Michael will be in the Cathedral on Friday 11th October, to tell us more about the relief work that they do.
A prayer for solidarity
God of all creation
you have given us the beautiful land.
Teach us to see those who are at our gates,
to act justly so all may come to the table and
to weep for those who perish before they are invited.
Where there is hunger in our world,
may we share our food and resources
and contribute our skills and knowledge
to create a sustainable food supply.
Where there is disaster,
may we respond quickly and generously,
to bring relief to those injured and deprived of homes
and help them to rebuild their lives and communities.
Recent Bible readings from the prophets have alerted us to their words against people and nations plundering resources and using inequality as a measure to divide out their extorted gains. How should we enter ‘Creation Time’ and then celebrate Harvest this year? By next year that ‘window of possibility’ (environmentalists are talking about) will look even nearer to being closed. Can our liturgies combine beauty, thanksgiving, urgency and engagement? Can we give a place to prophetic voices this year?
Greta Thunberg sounds like one of the prophetic voices of our times. Speaking to a group of MPs at the Houses of Parliament in London she said:
“We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider possible in the society that you have created. You don’t listen because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us and tell us that you really admire what we do.
We children are doing this to wake the adults up.”
“One day you understood that, without your being aware of it, a ‘yes’ had already been inscribed in your innermost depths. And so you chose to go forward in the footsteps of Christ, a choice no-one can make for another. In silence, in the presence of Christ, you heard him say, ‘Come, follow me; I will give you a place to rest your heart.’ And so you are led to the audacity of a ‘yes’ that lasts until your dying breath. This ‘yes’ leaves you exposed. There is no other way.” No Greater Love (Brother Roger of Taizé)
For every Christian there is the call to follow Christ at the heart of our lives. There may be a particular call, within that, to serve in many different ways. One of these is ordination: to being a particular kind of person, not just doing particular things, as Rowan Williams so succinctly put it. On Sunday 15th September the Church of Ireland is observing a Sunday to reflect on and pray for vocations. At the heart of vocation, Christ does the calling and we pray for attentiveness, over the din of our own lives, to hear him and for the grace to respond.
In May, we held an open meeting for anyone interested in the evolving plans for the Cathedral. The work will be extensive and I would very much like to stress two things:
Firstly, the careful planning is to enhance the integral holiness in the DNA of the building and is not an intervention. So many people comment on the stillness and charm of the Cathedral and it does not need us to add to it; just let it be what it is—unhindered. Some alterations will increase the sense of light and space and will be a reversion to what the Cathedral was in its past.
Secondly, while we have to be business-like in our application and in our future planning, the primary motivation remains the glory of God and the blessing of all people. Indeed, the vision is of engagement with a much wider community through spirituality, the arts and to being a place where we can offer retreats, quiet days and diverse artistic events. These are exciting times and much in need of your prayers.
As these notes are being prepared, we are in the season of St Columba, the dove of the Church. His collect expresses beautifully what we might all pray for:
Almighty God, who filled the heart of Columba with the joy of the Holy Spirit and with deep love for those in his care;
may your pilgrim people follow him, strong in faith, sustained by hope,
and one in the love that binds us to you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
from “Exciting Holiness”