The Calendar


Sunday Online Service

 

Lancelot Andrews - The Beheading of St. John the Baptist - St. Bartholomew, Martyr - St. Laurence, Martyr - John Mason Neale - St. James, Apostle -
The Idea of a Christian Society - St. Thomas, Apostle - Corpus Christi - Trinity Sunday - The Physical Holy Spirit - The Venerable Bede -
The Ascension
- Julian of Norwich - A Wreath - St Mark, Evangelist - Holy Week
La Corona: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

 

Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626)

Listen to an audio version of Lancelot Andrews read by Chris Burn

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)
We commemorate Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, on September 26th, the day after the anniversary of his death. With Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker and George Herbert, he gave us the fundamental distinctions of Anglicanism. Cranmer gave us the Book of Common Prayer, Herbert the insight that comes from a poetic imagination, Hooker our combination of revelation, reason and tradition, and Andrewes the King James Bible. Perhaps the composer William Byrd, their contemporary, should be included in the same pantheon, but he remained a Roman Catholic. Andrewes was the chief translator of King James’s Authorized Version of the Bible.  He was a devout scholar, painstakingly accurate, who knew 15 languages, and was a genius in composition of English prose. It was said that he could have served as Interpreter General at the Tower of Babel and helped deal with the confusion. The Bible is his great and well-known gift to us. But there are two other dimensions for which we might be equally grateful. The first is his profound influence on George Herbert, a schoolboy at Westminster when Andrewes was Dean and headmaster. Andrewes taught him Greek and Hebrew and tutored him in English prose and poetry. For Andrewes was a master of prose, taking it close to poetic resonance. He used short and pithy phrases, almost units, like lines of a poem. T.S. Eliot described his technique as squeezing and squeezing the word until it yields a full juice of meaning which we should never had supposed any word to possess. This was apparent in his sermons, some preached to the court, and some of which are preserved. He used irony and paradox to magnificent effect. The sermons are hard to read because, as Eliot wrote, they stick to essentials and present clarity and precision on matters of importance and indifference to matters indifferent. They are intense, taking us deep into the subject, so that we may be alone with the Alone. But they are alert to the humanist forces that propelled parts of the Reformation and to the wealth of learning that had flowered in Europe in the previous 150 years. The Good Friday sermon of 1604 is especially memorable, repeating the Latin phrase non sicut (nothing like) to drive home the various phases, physical and psychological, of Jesus’s torture, leading to the great paradox of Him taking what was really ours and we being given what was really His. Andrewes began every morning with thanksgiving for the part of creation that had been given that day. On Sunday, the first day of the week, it was for light. Let there be light. Reading Andrewes, we may be led, as Eliot was, to The Light. 

From The Dial in Private Prayers (Preces Privatae), printed after Andrewes’ death:
Thou who hast put the times and seasons in thine own power: grant that we make our prayer unto Thee in a time convenient and when Thou mayest be found, and save us.

Thou who for us men and for our salvation wast born at dead of night: give us daily to be born again by renewing of the Holy Ghost, Till Christ be formed in us unto a perfect man, and save us.

Thou who very early in the morning while the sun was yet arising didst rise from the dead: raise us up daily unto newness of life, suggesting to us ways of repentance which Thyself knowest, and save us.

Thou who at the third hour didst send down thy Holy Ghost on the apostles: take not away the same Spirit from us, but renew Him daily within us, and save us.

Thou who hast willed the ninth hour to be an hour of prayer: hear us while we pray in the hour of prayer and make us to obtain our prayer and our desires, and save us.

Thou who didst vouchsafe even at the eleventh hour of the day to send men into thy vineyard and to fix a wage, notwithstanding they had stood all the day idle: do unto us like favour and, though it be late, as it were about the eleventh hour, accept us graciously when we return to Thee, and save us.

 

 

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

The Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Listen to an audio version of The Beheading of St. John the Baptist read by Chris Burn

The Beheading, or Decollation (severing), of St John the Baptist is marked in our calendars on August 29th. Most of our commemorations are indeed on the day of a saint’s death, to mark the beginning of their life in eternity, but for John the Baptist, forerunner to our Lord, we normally celebrate his birth and this commemoration is rarely emphasised. His death and its narrative in the gospels (Matt. 14: 6-10; Mk 6:17-28) are important events in Jesus’s life and our tradition. As cousins Jesus and John were well aware of each other and their interrelated missions. Their mothers, of course, were very close (Lk. 1:36-56).  Two of Jesus’s disciples, one of whom was Andrew (Jn 1: 40), had been followers of St John. Our Lord referred to the Baptist as a burning and a shining light (Jn 5:35), and word of his death affected Jesus so directly that He had to be alone. These are all facets of their connection, but it is also important that this event is one of the few for which we have independent evidence, outside the gospels. The Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, included an account of John’s death in his Antiquities of the Jews, he wrote that Herod Antipas slew him, who was a good man. Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause and not bring himself into difficulties.  He gives the place of execution as the castle at Macherus. Josephus identifies John as John, that was called the Baptist. The gospel narratives emphasize that John had scolded Herod for marrying his half-brother’s wife and various other evil things (Lk 3:19), and her unforgiving enmity was the immediate cause of John’s execution. Later, after Herod was defeated in battle in 36 AD, Josephus relates that some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John. Josephus also mentions Jesus, but not directly in any passage that appears to be a genuine part of his manuscript. Instead, it is in a reference to the death of the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James in 62 AD. These are important passages, for some of the most extreme anti-Christian propaganda that is passed around at the moment denies any historical basis for the existence of Jesus or the message of the gospels.

 

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

St. Bartholomew, Martyr

Listen to an audio version of St. Bartholomew, Martyr read by Chris Burn

Our patronal festival is August 24th. St Bartholomew was one of the twelve apostles, named in the lists of Matthew (10: 1-4), Mark (3: 13-19), and Luke (6: 12-16) and in the Ascension narrative of the Acts (1: 4, 12-13). Even the Holy Qur’an mentions him in the list of helpers of Jesus. Bartholomew is the patronymic Son of Tolmai, so he probably also had another name. He is identified with Nathanael of St John’s Gospel and is always mentioned with Philip. Indeed, it was Philip whom John (2: 45-51) tells us brought Nathanael to Jesus. There are few details about Bartholomew in the Gospels, but after the Ascension, tradition holds that he likely went to India, where he left a copy of the Gospel of St Matthew, although, strictly, this may have been difficult to do chronologically. There is an apocryphal Gospel of St Bartholomew that was studied in the first millennium, and two other texts attributed to him, including the Book of the Resurrection of Christ, written in Coptic. We believe that he went to Armenia, as he is one of the patron saints of the Armenian Church, which he founded along with the Apostle Jude (Thaddeus). He was flayed alive there at Derbent on the Caspian Sea coast when he refused to worship pagan gods. A monastery was later built at the site of his martyrdom, but his relics were dispersed many centuries ago. One of his arms was given to Canterbury Cathedral in the 11th century. It may have been part of a minor cult, for 165 of the older churches in England are dedicated to him, and, of course, the great hospital in London, which was founded in 1123. In stark contrast, the most notorious event associated with St Bartholomew’s Day is the massacre of Huguenots in Paris (1572), which was followed by similar killings in other French towns. Up to 30,000 Protestants were murdered as a result of political rivalries between factions divided along religious lines. Such was one effect of the Reformation. Nathanael’s encounter with Jesus was very different. He had been skeptical of Philip’s invitation to meet our Lord: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Nathaniel replied. Come and see, said Philip. Philip’s excitement turned into Nathanael’s conversion, Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  Come and see. Three small words. They should be our motto.

 

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

St. Laurence, Martyr (c. 225-258)

Listen to an audio version of St. Laurence, Martyr read by Chris Burn

St Laurence (or Lawrence) was born in northern Spain and educated at Saragoza, a primary seat of learning at the time. From there he travelled to Rome, accompanying the Greek intellectual destined to become Pope Sixtus II in 257. Sixtus ordained Laurence deacon, and appointed him as the chief of seven deacons in Rome, or the archdeacon of Rome. His responsibilities included looking after the assets of the church and distributing alms to the poor. On August 4th, 258, Sixtus was captured while celebrating the eucharist in the cemetery of Callistus. (It was common then to hold a family meal at the tomb of an ancestor). He was killed on the 7th because the Emperor Valerian had ordered the death of all bishops, priests, and deacons, in a persecution aimed at seizing the church’s wealth. Laurence was martyred three days later. During the next century, a legend developed that shortly after Sixtus was executed, the authorities demanded Laurence hand over the treasures of the church. Laurence asked for three days to assemble them.  He spent the time distributing church possessions to poor, crippled, and suffering people. (A separate account indicates he sent the Holy Grail back to his parents in Spain.) On August 10th he presented these people to the prefect of Rome as the true treasures of the church. Incensed, the prefect ordered Laurence to be slowly roasted on a gridiron. There is no historical basis for this account, although it was recorded by St Ambrose, and it is likely he was beheaded like his bishop. It may have originated in a Latin slip, where passus est (he suffered), the normal expression for describing a martyr’s death, was miswritten assus est (he was roasted). Nevertheless, he must have been remarkable, for his memory was quickly venerated and there are several churches dedicated to him in Rome, including one over his tomb that preserves the stone slab on which his body was laid. His death made a serious impression on the church, for the authorities had executed a Roman citizen. We might remember the legend he inspired whenever we drive down his street, cross his great river or travel into the mountains that bear his name. His memorial is this week, on August 10th.

 

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

John Mason Neale

Listen to an audio version of John Mason Neale read by Chris Burn

John Mason Neale was one of the greatest Anglican hymn writers and is commemorated on August 7th.  His translations of Greek and Latin hymns are sung regularly during the year (O come, O come, Emmanuel; All glory, laud, and honour) and his own compositions are also very well known (Good King Wenceslas; Good Christian(s) men (all), rejoice). He was a very able classicist, but had a hard life in the church, largely because while at Trinity College, Cambridge, he became influenced by the High Church Oxford Movement, and his churchmanship thereby became more ritualistic than evangelical. He was ordained in 1842, but never advanced in the church hierarchy because of suspicion over his Roman tendencies. Today we would regard his clerical practices as entirely normal, but 150 years ago, Mattins and Evensong were preferred over Holy Communion most Sundays. Instead, from 1846 he remained Warden of Sackville College at East Grinstead in Sussex for twenty years until he died. Sackville College is an alms house founded to care for the elderly, and in 1855 Neale expanded his ministry, helping to found the Sisterhood of Saint Margaret to care for the sick, also in East Grinstead. Initially he met with much opposition for religious communities were considered Roman Catholic agencies, unwelcome in an evangelical land. In 1857 he was even beaten up at the funeral of one of the new sisters. The sisters were called to the United States in 1873, and the cheerful community is now based in Duxbury, MA. Neale may have been the model for Trollope’s Septimus Harding, Warden of Hiram’s Hospital in Barchester, in contrast with Obadiah Slope, who was made famous for us by the late Alan Rickman. Neale wrote: There is nothing I should dread more than that unreal, melancholy way of going on which one sometimes sees among those who are in earnest in serving God: as if it were impossible to be holy without ceasing to be natural, as if to be earnest in self-devotion was necessarily to become dismal. On the contrary, remember that cheerfulness, that the capacity of being amused and amusing, nay more, that high spirits are a gift from God.

 

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

St. James, Apostle

Listen to an audio version of St. James, Apostle read by Chris Burn

James and John, the sons of Zebedee and Salome, were, with Peter, especially close to our Lord. Together the three witnessed the raising of Jairus’s daughter, the Transfiguration, and were called out to the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. James is called the Greater (or Elder) to distinguish him from the other James in the Twelve, and because he seems to have been an elder brother to John. Their mother Salome asked Jesus to treat her sons with preference, and He granted her request, because they both shared in His suffering, James being the first of the apostles to be martyred, in about 44 by Herod Agrippa. He alone of the twelve disciples has his martyrdom recorded in the New Testament (Acts 12:2). St James’s great legacy is the tradition that he is buried at Santiago de Compostella in Galicia, northwest Spain. The story has a tenuous basis, but from the 9th century on the great church there was the focus of pilgrimages. The route to Santiago de Compostella became the third most important pilgrims’ way after the roads to Rome and Jerusalem. It followed a Roman Road to a cathedral erected over the site of his tomb. Throughout the Middle Ages this was a well populated route, with pilgrims walking from all over Europe. They wore a scallop shell as their badge, possibly a sign of the setting sun seen near their destination over Cape Finisterre, the westernmost point in Spain and the European mainland. For some it was the edge of the world. In the last 25 years the pilgrimage has undergone a renaissance, and although there are more genuine walkers than ever, numerous others take easier conveyance. Pilgrimage is a metaphor of the Christian journey, involving a degree of physical effort, a well-identified goal, and a readiness for new encounters. The availability to meet and help others becomes part of the pilgrim’s progress, the development of habits which are gifts that can be brought back home. Many pilgrims start their journey alone or with a partner, and find they soon become part of a small band travelling together to the same destination. The feast of St James is July 25th, the day in 816 his relics were buried in the Church of Santiago de Compostella.

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

The Idea of a Christian Society

Listen to an audio version of The Idea of a Christian Society read by Chris Burn

In the months after Pentecost, the followers of Jesus had to establish how they were going to live: they were founding the Church. Their communal life is described for us in the Acts, especially chapter 4 (v.32-37).  The Idea of a Christian Society is the title of a slim book published by T.S. Eliot in 1939. He had given three lectures at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in March that year on this theme. The date of publication is significant. He wrote when the English-speaking world, then identifiable as a Christian realm, faced Hitler and Stalin. Eliot is celebrated today as a poet but he was also recognised as a great critic of literature and culture. His purpose then was to explore the end to which a Christian society might aspire in order to deserve its name. He did not want to describe a society like ours where the sole conscious aim is prosperity in this world for the individual and Christians are a tolerated minority. He recognised that for us religion is a matter of private belief and behaviour and we accommodate all traditions. The roots of such a liberal attitude go back to the Reformation, where acceptance of diverging beliefs became necessary. Religion was pushed into the home and a distinction was drawn between private and public morality. That distinction is breaking down because our institutions are no longer Christian. He wrote - in 1939 - that in such a society, Christian traditions transmitted from generation to generation within the family must disappear and the small body of Christians will consist entirely of adult recruits. He argued against private individuals being the basis of society; he did not envision a country of saints, his Idea was a society of ordinary people whose Christianity was communal before being individual and where virtue and well-being in community was acknowledged for all. He didn’t use the phrase the Body of Christ, but that is what he was getting at. His vision reflects what we read about those early Christians in Jerusalem. Eliot’s book ends with a challenge: We cannot be satisfied to be Christians at our devotions and merely secular reformers all the rest of the week, for there is one question that we need to ask ourselves every day and about whatever business. The Church has perpetually to answer this question: to what purpose were we born? What is the end of Man?

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

St. Thomas, Apostle

Listen to an audio version of St. Thomas, Apostle read by Chris Burn

July 3rd is the feast of St Thomas, who is listed as a member of the twelve apostles in all four Gospels, but only St John mentions him in any other context. The most important utterance ascribed to Thomas follows his well-known episode doubting the authenticity of the risen Christ, when he exclaims “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). At that point he became the first person to recognize the divinity of Jesus. But earlier in the gospel, somewhat bemused he had asked Jesus “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn 14: 5,6). Thomas is an agent for great comfort and faith. After Pentecost, he set out on a missionary journey, but we do not know for certain where he went. There is, however, a strong tradition, stoutly defended, that he travelled to India, where he founded a church in Kerala on the southwest coast. It is possible he travelled to spread the gospel among the Jewish communities that had become established there. Today there is a vibrant community of Malabar Christians, who have two branches, one of which, the Mar Thoma Church, has close relations with the Church of South India and hence with the Anglican Communion. These Christians have an Orthodox liturgy, and the church can be securely traced to the sixth century. Part of their tradition holds that Thomas was martyred at Mylapore, near Chennai (Madras). There is a tomb at Mylapore that is called St Thomas’ tomb, and an ancient cross connected with it. His body may have rested there until it made its way back towards Europe in the 4th century, ultimately resting in Italy by 1258. There are a number of apocryphal writings that describe Thomas’ journey to India and, given the extensive trade between India and Syria and India and Egypt, it is quite possible that he reached Kerala. If he did, he would have been the only apostle to preach the gospel outside the Roman Empire, and to have been the one who travelled the furthest. His martyrdom is held to have been in 72 AD, twenty years after he arrived in India. The Gospel of St Thomas was found by archaeologists in Egypt 70 years ago, and seems to date from about 150 AD. It is not authoritative but includes some interesting stories and sayings. For instance, that the boy Jesus, learning to be a carpenter, made little birds out of wood, blew on them, and they flew away.

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

Corpus Christi

Listen to an audio version of Corpus Christi read by Chris Burn

The feast that commemorates the gift and institution of the Holy Eucharist is on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday. Until the Anglo-Catholic revival it was not part of Anglicanism, because it is a Roman innovation of the 13th century initiated by a nun, Juliana of Liège. For many years, our Holy Communion was not a common weekly service, but today the Eucharist is central to our Sunday worship. With baptism, it is one of the two sacraments our Lord ordained. Baptisms almost always now take place in the context of a Communion service, and, for many Christians, marriages and funerals do too. We bring three of our most personal moments, with hope for our children, joy in anticipation of our life’s journey, and sorrow at a parting, right to the place where the bread and wine are consecrated. For over 150 years, people have brought these same rites-of-passage and many other personal decisions and trials to our altar, a table made from wood by human hands, just as was the Cross. We may be reminded of Jesus being broken on Golgotha when the wafer snaps in our mouths or recognize a symbol of Him permeating through us as we are warmed by the wine. The 25th of our 39 Articles describes the sacraments as witnesses .. of … God’s good will towards us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth … strengthen and confirm our Faith. The 16th century reformers despised superstitions associated with the processions on Corpus Christi when the consecrated elements were, and in some places are, carried around in grand style. They symbolize(d) Jesus walking among us, just as he had in Galilee. The reformers said that the Eucharistic sacrament was not to be … carried about, lifted up, or worshipped. They did their best to dampen expectations of material power in physical objects. They wanted us to concentrate on Scripture and its messages, not our traditions and surroundings. But in its way, folk religion is as alive today as ever. Each parish in our diocese is unique and has its own particular preoccupations. Perhaps concerning the size of the building, perhaps the music, perhaps the wall hangings, perhaps the causes we support. These are the items that consume a parish’s business and to which we become attached. Regardless of these passing themes, an essence of our church now is to renew Jesus within us every week.

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

Trinity Sunday

Listen to an audio version of Trinity Sunday read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

Trinity Sunday is the celebration of God above us, God beside us, and God within us. God: creator, redeemer, and sustainer. God here: in the past, the present, and the future.  God above us, transcendent, beyond our familiarity, understanding, or experience. A perspective and vision greater than any we shall ever have, confined as we are by place and time. A presence that watches the machinations of human endeavour and extends natural gifts and mercy indiscriminately to all people. God beside us, because that is where we need Him. The Lord is my shepherd, wrote the psalmist, I shall not want, … for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. The thief crucified beside Jesus, perhaps closer to Him than anyone on Golgotha, said Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (Lk. 23:42).  God within us: just as Jesus is in the Father, so He is in us (Jn 14:17). God reaching into us, not us standing or kneeling separately and reaching out for God, but God reaching out to everyone, including those whom we have chosen not to acknowledge, the wind blows where it wills, Jesus told Nicodemus (Jn 3:8). Our breath is a common metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Air that we inhale, oxygen that sustains us, and breath that we release. An unconscious perpetual rhythm while we are alive, marking our dependence on an atmosphere that surrounds us all. There have been great theological theses on the Trinity, but it is quite simple, really. Malcolm Guite says God in whom we all begin is God beyond us, God beside us, and God within. From George Herbert:

 Lord, who has made me out of mud,
          And hast redeem’d me through thy blood,
          And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sins done heretofore:
          For I confess my heavy score,
          And I will strive to do no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
          With faith, with hope, with charity;
          That I may run, rise, rest with thee.

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

The Physical Holy Spirit

Listen to an audio version of The Physical Holy Spirit read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

This Sunday, May 31st, is the Feast of Pentecost, one of the most well-known events that are directly due to the Holy Spirit. The Annunciation and Jesus’s baptism are also well-known, but there are many others in the Bible where we are told that people were filled with the Holy Spirit. May 31st is also usually the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary travelled to her relation Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. That too was an encounter filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1: 41). At Pentecost, the Spirit gave the disciples fluency in many languages. It was the birth of the church; a group of frightened and poorly educated people emerged transformed into missionaries who were to change the world. It was a physical and psychological transformation, filling them with courage and conviction. A similar change may have happened to Jesus at His baptism. Certainly, people who had known Him growing up were surprized by what He became, as we read at the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4: 16-30). Mary’s pregnancy began at the Annunciation. She must have been excited. Her arrival at Elizabeth’s home gave us the Magnificat, Mary’s song of joy and an extended commission for the church (Lk 1: 46-55). The Australian poet Noel Rowe (1951-2007), in his poem also called Magnificat, imagined Mary later on remembering the Annunciation:

The angel did not draw attention to himself
He came in. So quietly I could hear

my blood beating on the shore of absolute
beauty. There was fear, yes, but also

faith among familiar things:
light, just letting go the wooden chair,

my knife cutting through the hard skin
of vegetable, hitting wood, and the noise

outside of children playing with their dog,
throwing him a bone. Then all these sounds

dropped out of hearing. The breeze
drew back, let silence come in first,

and my heart, my heart, was wanting him,
reaching out, and taking hold of smooth-muscled fire.

And it was done. I heard the children laugh
And saw the dog catch the scarred bone.

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

The Venerable Bede (c. 673-735)

Listen to an audio version of The Venerable Bede read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)


Christ is the Morning Star who when the night of this world is past brings to his saints the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day.

The Venerable Bede, who spent almost all of his life as a monk near the coast of northeast England, died on Ascension Day, 735. He had been taken to the monastery of St Peter and St Paul at Wearmouth aged seven, living there for a while, before moving with Abbot Ceolfrith to the monks’ new house in Jarrow. When he was 14, only he and Ceolfrith escaped plague sufficiently to maintain the daily offices and the round of prayer. He was greatly suited to, and delighted in, a life devoted to prayer, study, teaching, and writing. He wrote over 60 books, mostly commentaries on books of the Bible. Some of his work was written in the vernacular, but most of his surviving texts are in remarkably clear Latin. His History of the English Church and People (Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum), which he finished in 731, remains the prime source for English history of the 7th century. Its perspective is that the unification of the church in England as a Roman Catholic body created an English people out of the diverse groups and kingdoms throughout the land. He is particularly respected for stating his sources and explaining their reliability, and for separating fact from hearsay and tradition. In his History he introduced the use of A.D. to reference time in Christendom. Although this had been suggested before, its value was not recognized and people used the accession of local kings and rulers as marker points, as we do in parliament today. This complicated arrangements between kingdoms and the construction of history. Although now we often refer to the years A.D. as the Common Era, his innovation was obvious and brilliant. More technically, he made considerable efforts to help people understand how the date of Easter is calculated. We know him for these contributions, but much of his work was to help novices and his contemporaries understand both the Bible and the immediate historical and ecclesiastical context in which they lived. He died translating the Gospel of John into what we call Old English. His remains were brought to Durham in 1020 to lie with St Cuthbert but were moved within the Cathedral in 1370 to a large chapel, where many people now visit them. The prayer with which he ended his History might be used by all of us:

I pray you, merciful Jesu,
that as you have graciously granted me
joyfully to imbibe the words of your knowledge,
so you will also, of your goodness,
grant that I may come at length to you,
the fount of all wisdom,
and stand before your face for ever. Amen.

(Tomorrow’s - May 25th - commemorative service for the Venerable Bede at Durham Cathedral will available on
Durham Cathedral’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vl_C6p3voI)

 

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

The Ascension

Listen to an audio version of The Ascension read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

We touched on the Ascension earlier in the seventh stanza of La Corona. Now, this coming Thursday, we celebrate Jesus being taken into heaven. Heaven is one of the mysteries of our faith. We need our imagination to apprehend heaven, but we are committed to it - The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting, we confess. The elderly are promised eternal rest, and most of us want to know if we will see our loved ones again. We may wonder whether we are presently animated bodies – something more than sophisticated biochemistry - or, rather, incarnated souls – eternal beings wrapped in impermanent clothing. Professor John Polkinghorne points out in this context that all the atoms in our bodies are replaced every two years. Not just our hair and nails, but everything; we are a dynamic continuity. It is perpetual development within some broad definitions, our essence inside an everchanging home. Nevertheless, we know that on earth our bodies cannot be separated from us. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary took hold of the risen Jesus’s feet and worshipped Him (Mt. 28: 9). Jesus asked His disciples, handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have (Lk. 24: 39). On the way to Emmaus two disciples could not recognize Him (Lk. 24:16). He was to them then an unexceptional human being. Once they recognized Him, the continuity of their relationship with Him was restored, and He could depart physically from them. That may be an essence of heaven, the continuation of our relationship with God and of other valued relationships we have. We may need our bodies for this, just as Jesus did, and so we hold out hope for our own resurrection. Professor Polkinghorne says Hope is the trust that there is a God who can bring about a fulfilment. And that trust is, itself, faith: it is the commitment. A few months ago, we read about credo, I believe, from cor do, I give my heart. Jesus’s Ascension could only happen after His Resurrection. It is a sequence He established for us.

(This was stimulated by a conversation between John Polkinghorne and Patrick Miles published in the Church Times on 9 April 2020.)

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

Julian of Norwich

Listen to an audio version of Julian of Norwich read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

On the morning of 8th of May 1373, a woman 30 years old, on, she thought, her deathbed, had a series of 15 visions of Jesus that revealed various aspects of the love of God. Another vision came a short while later. She recovered from her severe illness and soon afterwards wrote down her experience. Twenty years later, after meditating and considering her visions as an anchoress at St Julian’s Church in Norwich, then the second city of the realm, she wrote a long account, The Revelations of Divine Love. We know her as Mother Julian, a name that comes from the church next to which she lived. Anchoresses or anchorites were people who secluded themselves from the world, sealed in their rooms until death. The liturgy that began their life of solitude, prayer, and meditation included parts of the funeral rite, signifying the person had entered their grave, where their contemplative life might be uninterrupted. Julian had a window in to the church and a window onto the outside world. She may have been a recluse, but people sought her out, including Margery Kempe, the mystic whose autobiography describes the visit. Julian’s world was not altogether different from ours, secluded as we are at present, hiding from a plague. These are material similarities. Perhaps more pervasively, in Julian’s time there was serious discontent with the church, with theological dissatisfaction and philosophical churning articulated by William of Ockham and John Wycliffe. It is the same in our post-modern, post-colonial, post-structural society. Julian was loyal to the church. Her visions illuminated the all-encompassing love of God at the centre of this world. Love was our Lord’s meaning, she wrote. It is almost universalist, for she did not sense any wrath or anger in God towards us. Her insight was reaffirmed when T.S. Eliot used her lines, now her most well-known lines, in Little Gidding: All shall be well/And all manner of thing shall be well. This is the divine certainty, that what God loves He will take to Himself.
From the conclusion of The Revelations:

So it was that I learned that love was our Lord’s meaning.
And I saw for certain, both here and elsewhere, that before ever he made us, God loved us.
And this love was never quenched, nor ever shall be.
In this love all his works have been done, and in this love he has made everything serve us, and in this love our life is everlasting.
Our beginning was when we were made, but the love in which he made us was in him from without beginning. In it we have our beginning.

All this we shall see in God without end; which Jesus grant us. Amen.

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

A Wreath

Listen to an audio version of A Wreath read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

George Herbert’s response to La Corona is his poem A Wreath. Donne and Herbert, fully aware of each other from about 1600 though Herbert was 20 years younger, knew a wreath as a short-lived symbol of victory and honour. The flowers fall and the leaves fade and people forget. Early Christians were taught to avoid wearing wreaths, then considered inappropriate imitations of the Crown of Thorns. Even John Donne refers to a vile crown of frail bays. Both poets knew that a crown of Glory is everlasting. It doth flower always. But how to gain that crown? John Donne’s poetry is vivid and intense throughout. He does not evade the human condition. His religious verse is preoccupied with sin and death, condemnation and salvation, as we read. Herbert’s poetry is altogether different. He is at home with his Master, assured of His friendship and love. He doesn’t force questions of grace or effort for salvation. His Wreath is more tightly interwoven than La Corona, with the warp of echo and elaboration binding the weft of each line. But it bathes in grace, painting for us simplicity as essence for living with God. It is a poem for today, when we are confined to our homes and life is, for a short while and for some of us, unconvoluted and simple.

A Wreathed garland of deserved praise,
Of praise deserved, unto thee I give,
I give to thee, who knowest all my wayes,
My crooked winding wayes, wherein I live,
Wherein I die, not live: for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to thee,
To thee, who art more farre above deceit,
Then deceit seems above simplicitie.
Give me simplicitie, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know, thy wayes,
Know them and practise them: then shall I give
For this poore wreath, give thee a crown of praise.

                                               A Wreath

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 

St Mark, Evangelist (d. c. 74)

Listen to an audio version of Saint Mark read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

April 25th is for St Mark, the evangelist who gave us the shortest gospel with its most direct text. Mark was writing for people who knew him. Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, we read (Mk 15: 21), a remarkable association placing Mark in his community of readers. He is usually identified as John Mark, a cousin of St Barnabas, who travelled with him and St Paul on their first missionary journey to Cyprus. This missionary work began unfortunately, because John Mark left Paul and Barnabas at Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). His mother, Mary, owned a house where the apostles and early Christians met (Acts 12:12). Some think he may have been the young man, only mentioned in Mark’s Gospel, who followed Jesus to Gethsemane and escaped naked when the guards caught his linen robe (Mk. 14:51). Much later he was close to St Peter, My son, Mark, Peter wrote (1 Pet. 5:13). His book is a series of stories probably gathered from St Peter and written down in about 68 AD using the unpolished Greek of the eastern Mediterranean. It is a compressed account, written to be read aloud and listened to, and not originally composed for textual exegesis. The stories were assembled to show that Jesus changed the way we encounter God. His book was accepted by the Early Church, not dismissed. The stories had changed Mark’s world and because he knew they were true, we must consider them and decide what they mean for us. For Mark, the extraordinary healing and teaching of Jesus’s ministry was a prelude to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Mark presents a total change in perspective about the world from what people then held and, to a great extent, hold today. He does not beat about the bush, but from his seventh verse onwards, tells us of the fusion of God and humanity in Jesus. Mark is urgent. In the first chapter alone he uses immediately nine times to show the fibre-optic like communication between heaven and earth in Jesus. The gospel ends suddenly with the empty tomb, but before that are three chapters that present to us the most precise Passion narrative. Mark gives us God at the weakest point of human experience. It identifies Him with the opposite of human ambition. And what of our response? Mark shows it in stark words. Inside the palace, Jesus is asked by the high priest Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? He replied I am. Outside, at the same time, Peter is asked if he is a follower of Jesus. I am not he repeats three times. It is a chilling contrast.

(This Calendar entry borrows heavily from Rowan Williams (2014) Meeting God in Mark. SPCK)

 

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~


Part 1

Listen to an audio version of La Corona read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

La Corona – the crown. John Donne’s sequence of seven sonnets is all about our Redemption. It is right for Holy Week. The sequence forms a circle, the perfect shape, using the last line of each poem to begin the next, and the last line of all to begin the first stanza. Each time, the same words serve a different purpose. The circle mirrors the church year, for even within our direct progression from Christmas to Easter, the Annunciation appears on March 25 to begin Jesus’s earthly story again. It has no end. The Sun that bids us rest is waking/Our brethren ‘neath the western sky, we often sing at Evensong. But this week is one for special focus. James 1 (or 6) would not give patronage to Donne in the middle of his career but told him to take holy orders. The king astutely perceived in him a capacity to inform, instruct, and engage, the three principal requirements of a preacher. They were realized in 1615 and later as Dean of St Paul’s. They are there in the first Corona verse illustrating the balance between trust in God and our own exertions, the question of grace and effort for redemption. The reward for effort on Earth of a vile crown but the gift from God of a crown of Glory.  Back then the purpose of Holy Week and especially Good Friday was neither complicated nor nuanced. It brought and bought us salvation.

Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise,
Weav’d in my low devout melancholy,
Thou which of good, hast, yea art treasury,
All changing unchang’d Ancient of days;
But do not, with a vile crown of frail bays,
Reward my muse’s white sincerity,
But what Thy thorny crown gained, that give me,
A crown of Glory, which doth flower always;
The ends crown our works, but Thou crown’st our ends,
For, at our end begins our endless rest;
The first last end, now zealously possess’d,
With a strong sober thirst, my soul attends.
‘Tis time that heart and voice be lifted high,
Salvation to all that will is nigh.


Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~


Part 2

Listen to an audio version of La Corona read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

The second sonnet of La Corona is for the Annunciation, the day which began Jesus’s journey to Golgotha. It is the visit of the angel to Mary, asking her to be the agent through which the Word will become flesh. She is Theotokos, the bearer of God. It is verse of extraordinary power, built upon an intensity and skill with language using paradoxes – mysteries - that jolt our imagination. Only there may we apprehend the incarnation that began at the Annunciation. John Donne moves us backwards and forwards between the earthly and cosmic significance of God incarnate. These visionary ideas are conceits, concentrated images that involve vivid contrast and, because they verge on the philosophical, contribute to our comprehension of what was happening on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Not what physically happened to one Man, but what it was He stood in for. Mary’s assent to the Holy Spirit’s request, Be it unto me according to thy word she said, is a moment of harmony and peace, a sacred moment, made remarkable by the angel asking for Mary’s consent. It frames this sonnet, but there near the beginning of the verse, this unassumingly presented yet earthshaking incident is shown to be a foundation of the Crucifixion.

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He'll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother ;
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceiv’d ; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother,
Thou hast light in dark; and shutt'st in little room
Immensity, cloister'd in thy dear womb.

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~


Part 3

Listen to an audio version of La Corona read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

John Donne’s third La Corona sonnet is for the Nativity. The nativity stories do not neglect the Crucifixon, but it only peeps in through myrrh. Genesis begins the Old Testament and St Matthew the New. The Nativity is in Matthew’s first chapter. At the end of that chapter, Joseph took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus (Mt. 1: 25).  The first chapter of Genesis tells us allegorically about the foundation of the world. At the end of that chapter the earth has been made. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Gen 1: 31). At that moment God is omnipotent. He is above all His creation. But from that point forward things change, especially as humans learn the consequences of freedom, and, slowly, that there is no freedom without responsibility. By the end of Genesis, Jacob and his family have fled to Egypt. In St Matthew, God is there as a dependent baby, no longer omnipotent. He needs protection from Herod’s swords, the first assassins sent for Him. He too must flee to Egypt, but the escape can only be temporary, for here we are in Holy Week.     

Immensity cloister’d in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-beloved imprisonment,
There he hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come;
But Oh, for thee, for Him, hath th’Inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars, and wisemen will travel to prevent
Th’effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
See’st thou, my Soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.


Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~


Part 4

Listen to an audio version of La Corona read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

The fourth stanza of La Corona takes us back into the Temple with Mary and Joseph to seek their son talking with the academics and clergy. It is a story of an innocent child unaware of the devastating fear that had shaken his mother a few hours earlier, and of a prodigy meeting the clerisy on their own terms and in their own place. For John Donne, the encounter levels Jesus with the learned. It is learning that prepares Him for practical work. Donne was himself widely read, at Oxford in Spanish and the Spanish mystics, at Cambridge in logic, and at Lincoln’s Inn in law and theology. His own work issued from deep knowledge, but while it gave Jesus confidence to speak in the synagogues, for Donne it was eight years from 1607 before he overcame his reluctance to be ordained. Some think La Corona was written in 1607, and others a little later. Irrespective of these details, John Donne knew that after the palm-strewn procession into Jerusalem, Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus spent most of His time teaching in the Temple. He began and ended His ministry in the Temple, the focal point of His faith. A place we rarely comprehend because it has been lost. The last days were between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, as we are now.

With his kind mother who partakes thy woe,
Joseph turn back; see where your child doth sit,
Blowing, yea blowing out those sparks of wit,
Which Himself on the Doctors did bestow;
The Word but lately could not speak, and lo
It suddenly speaks wonders, whence comes it,
That all which was, and all which should be writ,
A shallow seeming child, should deeply know?
His Godhead was not soul to His manhood,
Nor had time mellowed him to this ripeness,
But as for one which hath a long task, ‘tis good,
With the Sun to begin his business,
He in His age’s morning thus began
By miracles exceeding power of man.


Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~


Part 5

Listen to an audio version of La Corona read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

The fifth sonnet is for Good Friday. Crucifying John Donne called it. We read the accounts the gospels present deliberately because things move quickly through the night and day. But here Donne is complete: the motivation - professional envy, the arbitrary conviction, the road to Golgotha, the death, and the gift. In some traditions, at least part of the Good Friday service follows the fourteen Stations of the Cross, points for particular reflection between Jesus’s condemnation and burial. They include moments on the way to the hill and in the execution itself. They would have been well known to Donne, given his Roman Catholic upbringing, his travels on the continent, and the nature of his times. Some are from the canonical gospel accounts, but others are more symbolic. The sixth station is one of these, Veronica passing her veil to Jesus that He might wipe His brow and, for a moment, she distracts Him from His pain. She is an archetype for those who care for us. There are Veronicas working today for some who will recover and others who have been, are, or will be arbitrarily condemned. The sonnet is not shy of pain, something common in the early 17th century, nor of death, also more apparent then than it has been in the last 50 years. Both of these features of early 21st century life make apprehension of the crucifixion more difficult and ours the last line’s prayer.

By miracles exceeding power of man,
He faith in some, envy in some begat,
For, what weak spirits admire, ambitious hate;
In both affections many to Him ran,
But Oh! the worst are most, they will and can,
Alas, and do, unto the immaculate,
Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a Fate,
Measuring self-life’s infinity to a span,
Nay to an inch. Lo, where condemned He
Bears His own cross, with pain, yet by and by
When it bears Him, He must bear more and die.
Now Thou art lifted up, draw me to Thee,
And at Thy death giving such liberal dole,
Moist, with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul.

                                                            Crucifying

Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~


Part 6

Listen to an audio version of La Corona read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

The title of the sixth stanza of La Corona is Resurrection. Jesus’s appearances to his disciples and friends between Easter Day and His ascension gave these people proof that the grave was not the end, for them or for us. He was present in a way that people in the same place all experienced together. The appearances we read about were individual events, he did not appear in many different places at the same time. He was still a singular person. We normally celebrate the miracle of Easter in church with trumpets and singing and loud organ accompaniments and voluntaries. It is characteristically a celebration of Jesus as the Christ who has overcome death, although we don’t hear much about death itself. It is different this year, for there will be thousands of enumerated deaths on Easter Day. John Donne writes directly to these people and to those whom they loved and who loved them. In his time death roamed the streets. Several pandemics of plague ravaged London during his life, particularly seriously in 1593 and 1603, but also in 1607, the year he likely composed La Corona and gave it to Magdalen Herbert, George Herbert’s mother. In the last two lines he gives us what we often call the hope of glory, not as hope, but as assurance and expectation.

 

Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall (though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly), be
Freed by that drop, from being starv’d, hard, or foul,
And life, by this death abled, shall control
Death, whom Thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death, bring misery,
If in Thy little book my name Thou enrol,
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrefied,
But made that there, of which, and for which ’twas;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin’s sleep, and death’s soon from me pass,
That wak’d from both, I again risen may
Salute the last, and everlasting day.

                                   La Corona - Resurrection


Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

Part 7

Listen to an audio version of La Corona read by Chris Burn
with musical accompaniment by Andrew Burn (bassoon) and Nicola Paoli (cello)

The seventh and last part of La Corona is for the Ascension. We celebrate the Ascension on a Thursday in May, 40 days after Easter. The day of the Ascension was the last time the disciples saw Jesus with their own eyes. Jesus left them with three promises, to be with them always (Mt. 28:20), to come again (Acts 1: 11), and to send them His power (Lk 24: 49).  The Ascension itself perhaps provokes a greater mystery than the Resurrection. It indicates there is a place to which the visible Jesus departed. A place outside a geographer or astronomer’s ability to reach from this earth. The days after Easter transformed a band of terrified brothers and sisters into the evangelists of Pentecost. The transformation did not happen on Easter morning, but it began then. It took time and reassurance for them to know the Ascension would not be the end. It was the beginning of time similar to ours. Many of us have not yet seen Jesus, but we have heard about Him, and we have experienced the work of the Holy Spirit as did John Donne. Every year we spiral inwards, coming closer to the Centre. We pass the same points, never ending but not quite the same. It may be why Donne chose to end La Corona with its beginning.    

Salute the last and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose just tears, or tribulation
Have purely washed, or burnt your drossy clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon,
Nor doth He by ascending, show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which has batter’d heaven for me,
Mild Lamb, which with Thy blood, has mark’d the path;
Bright Torch, which shins’t, that I the way may see,
Oh, with Thy own blood quench Thy own just wrath,
And if Thy holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.

                                   La Corona - Ascension


Return to top of page

~~~~~~~~

 


Holy Week

Listen to an audio version of Holy Week read by Chris Burn

Holy Week turns the world upside down. It is the exemplary time to witness the Kingdom of God. It may be familiar, but it is not usually comfortable. What we will see we will have heard before. Today, Jesus was hailed by the crowds a few days ago but tomorrow he will be deserted and killed on a garbage dump. That was Golgotha, well outside the city wall. His death is the archetype of Love’s austere and lonely offices, the tasks described by Robert Hayden that we fulfill for those we love; the duties that are a basis of functioning family life. Jesus will be asked about his Kingdom, but Pilate will not understand. He will remain ambivalent. Like most of us. He will send Jesus to the Cross, our symbol for God’s Kingdom. It is where Light pierces Life, but not as we might expect. It is the end of the Incarnation. St Paul wrote that God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1: 27). That is Holy Week. It is not for the ambitious. It is for those who come as they are. It is the gate to the Kingdom. The Kingdom may seem upside down; we must decide what is the right way up. From R.S. Thomas:

It’s a long way off but inside it

There are quite different things going on

Festivals at which the poor man

Is king and the consumptive is

Healed; mirrors in which the blind look

At themselves and love looks at them

Back; and industry is for mending

The bent bones and the minds fractured

By life. It’s a long way off, but to get

There takes no time and admission

Is free, if you will purge yourself

Of desire, and present yourself with

Your need only and the simple offering

Of your faith, green as a leaf.

                                    The Kingdom (1972)

~~~~~~~~

Return to top of page

About St Barts


St Barts is a member
of the Anglican Church
of Canada and is in the
Anglican Diocese of Ottawa

Useful Links

Anglican Church of Canada

Anglican Diocese of Ottawa

Crosstalk
Anglican Diocese newspaper

Community Ministries
Centre 454
Cornerstone/Le Pilier
St. Luke's table
The Well
Pastoral Counselling Centre

Street Map

Get in Touch

  • Phone:
    (613) 745-7834
  • Email:
    stbarts@bellnet.ca
  • Address:
    125 MacKay St.
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Canada K1M 2B4