The Calendar - 2021


Sunday Online Service

 

George Herbert, Poet and divine (1593 – 1633) - The Beginning of Lent - Hannah Grier Coome (1837-1921) -
The Transfiguration - Candlemas, The Presentation of the Lord

 

George Herbert, Poet and divine (1593 – 1633)

Listen to an audio version of George Herbert, Poet and divine (1593 – 1633) read by Chris Burn

George Herbert, Poet and divine (1593 – 1633)

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunne-beam I will climbe to thee.

(from Mattens)

Bemerton is a small village about 2 miles west of Salisbury Cathedral. For three years, George Herbert and his wife Jane Danvers lived there in the rectory opposite the tiny church of St Andrew. He said Mattins and Evensong daily with his parishioners, who grew to love holy Mr Herbert. He left us poetry he wrote at Bemerton in The Temple, and another short book A Priest in the Temple, which for over 200 years was one of the few published sources of advice for country priests. He is a poet of the Incarnation, because he knew God as both his Master and his friend; Christian love recurs as his great theme. His father died when George was three, but his quite remarkable mother, Magdalen Newport, moved her family to Oxford and then London, where George attended Westminster School under Lancelot Andrewes. He went up to Cambridge and rose to be elected a Fellow of Trinity College and, in 1620, University Orator. He endured a long struggle with an ambition to become a courtier, but James I’s death in 1625 dismissed that possibility, and Herbert’s vocation to the church became clearer. The next year he was ordained deacon and given the prebendary of Layton Ecclesia, now called Leighton Bromswold, which is in Huntingdonshire near Little Gidding, where his close friend Nicholas Ferrar lived. Herbert undertook to restore the church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin at Layton. The interior at St Mary’s is now symmetrical, to balance prayer with preaching, the BCP and the KJV, both then fresh foundations of Anglicanism. He entered the Church of England sponsored by John Williams, the warm and genial bishop of Lincoln. Williams’ gentle, generous, and tolerant churchmanship was an important influence when Herbert spent his last three years as priest at St Andrew’s. His poor health drove him from swampy Cambridge to relatives, ultimately in Wiltshire, where in 1629 he married Jane, at Edington, northwest across Salisbury Plain from the city and in 1630 took the living at Bemerton. There his warm life and work were governed by reason, discipline, and propriety. He walked twice a week across the meadows and along the River Nadder to Salisbury Cathedral for Evensong and to play his lute and viol afterwards with the musicians. Then he felt close to heaven. We sing his poetry as hymns Let all the world in every corner sing or Teach me, my God and King, and we listen to it set in anthems King of Glorie, King of Peace. As R.S. Thomas wrote, it is a proof of the eternal beauty of holiness. February 27th is his feast day.

Thou hast giv’n so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.

Not thankfull, when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.
(from Gratefulnesse)

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The Beginning of Lent

Listen to an audio version of The Beginning of Lent read by Chris Burn

The Beginning of Lent

Lent is upon us. Shrove Tuesday was this week, the day for us to be shriven. To make our confession and receive forgiveness. Oh shrieve me, shrieve me, Holy Man said the Ancient Mariner to the hermit when he made it to land and needed release from his guilt. Now we formally start Lent on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season for discipline. Some of us give things up, and others prefer to do something regularly. It is a good season for resolutions, because we only promise to keep them for a compact time, not the whole year. It is not a sombre season, especially when, in more normal times, we go on holiday to escape the minor inconveniences of winter. Daily discipline, undertaken for a sort time, has an uncanny habit of becoming permanent when we reap the benefits of many small opportunities placed before us through its practice. In the last two years I have read anthologies of poetry that have been prepared for Lent. (I have found Malcolm Guite’s The Word in the Wilderness: A poem a day for Lent and Easter, very helpful.) The Calendar has then carried some of the ideas sparked by the verse and commentaries. Dorothy Wordsworth described the poetic imagination as a view into a deep, luminous truth. Her friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, wrote of the capacity of poetry to take us beyond the lethargy of custom and present a heightened awareness of the world – natural and spiritual, if they can be separated – that we miss due to a film of familiarity and selfish solicitude. The insights we may distill from poetry may appear momentary, but they may change the way we see. From R.S. Thomas:

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

The Bright Field (1975)

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Hannah Grier Coome (1837-1921)

Listen to an audio version of Hannah Grier Coome read by Chris Burn

Hannah Grier Coome (1837-1921)

February 9th is the commemoration of Hannah Grier Coome, who founded the Sisterhood of St John the Divine (SSJD), the first Canadian Anglican religious order for women. Hannah was born in Carrying Place, Prince Edward County, into a high-church family with close ties to the Family Compact, the ruling elite of Upper Canada. She and her eldest sister, Elizabeth, shared an uncommon religious conviction. Hannah married in 1859 and moved with her husband to Britain in 1862. She was seriously injured in a fall during her first pregnancy, lost her child, and required a long convalescence, nursed by Elizabeth who went over to look after her. Both of the sisters were drawn to the devotional and social mission work of the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage, near Oxford, a monastic order founded as a result of the Oxford Movement. Elizabeth was about to enter the CSMV, when she was recalled in 1871 to her dying father. Hannah moved back across the Atlantic to Chicago in 1877, but her husband died the next year. By 1881 Hannah had decided to join the Wantage Sisters, but she was urged instead to form an order in Toronto. She entered her noviciate with the CSMV at their house in Peekskill, NY, where she gained experience in nursing and social work. After she professed her vows on 8 September 1884, she returned to Toronto and started the SSJD, living at Bishop Strachan School, where Elizabeth was principal. Almost immediately Hannah was asked to set up a field hospital in Moose Jaw during the North-West rebellion. When she returned to Toronto, the order established several hospitals and nursing homes there and in other cities. Hannah recognized that sustainable social work stems from a devout life, so her sisters spend several hours each day in prayer, study, and worship. Today there are two houses, in Toronto and Victoria, and the order is well known for its work in rehabilitation of injured people, its persistent devotion, and its ability to offer spiritual guidance.

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The Transfiguration

Listen to an audio version of The Transfiguration read by Chris Burn

The Transfiguration

St Matthew (17: 1-9), St Mark (9: 2-9), and St Luke (9: 28-36) all give very similar accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus, a singular point in the middle of His ministry. We formally celebrate the Transfiguration on August 6th, a date selected by Pope Callistus III in the mid-15th century in gratitude for victory over the Turks. Tradition from at least the 3rd century holds that the Transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor, where there is now a Basilica, but Mt Hermon, or even the Mount of Olives, are other likely places. Often the event is portrayed at night, but it would have been difficult to climb or descend the mountain in the dark, and the gospels do not present the time of day. No matter, the dazzling radiance of Jesus’s appearance was brighter than any light, and His closest disciples, Peter, James, and John were shown the eternal side of His dual nature. St John alluded to the Transfiguration in chapter 1 verse 14 of his gospel, and the other evangelists also show Jesus as celestial but still recognizable: part of a reality that transcends our universe. Apart from us, brilliant; anticipating the continuity to be implicit in His Resurrection; and sensing the presence of Moses and Elijah as tangible evidence of the Jewish line of salvation. God is present in a cloud; the Cloud of Unknowing, which later would absorb Jesus at His Ascension, and will absorb us at the Second Coming (1 Thess. 4: 17). The Father’s words, heard directly very rarely in the Bible, come from the cloud and could not be plainer. This is my Son, … Listen to Him! These days, we also celebrate the Transfiguration near the beginning of Lent, mid-way between Christmas and Easter. It is important enough not to be lost in the dog days of summer. In August it is the last festival of our Lord before Christmas, punctuating the long series of weeks in Ordinary Time between Pentecost and Advent. In February it marks the point where Jesus’s journey began the road to Golgotha. At the Transfiguration Jesus appeared in His heavenly form, flooded with brilliance and glory. What Peter, James, and John saw then is what we shall see in our own time. It will be radiance, not mere illumination.

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Candlemas, The Presentation of the Lord

Listen to an audio version of Candlemas, The Presentation of the Lord read by Chris Burn

Candlemas, The Presentation of the Lord

The Lord shall make my darkness to be light, Psalm 18:30
Forty days after Christmas (February 2nd), St Mary ended her confinement and she and Jesus were presented in the Temple. As a first-born son, Jesus was to be offered to God – in thanksgiving for Israel’s deliverance from Egypt – and then ransomed by a sacrifice of doves. The Redeemer had to be redeemed. The feast, formerly called The Purification of St Mary the Virgin, has lost its association with thanksgiving for recovery after childbirth, because we have discarded the “churching” of women from our customs. We neglect to see each birth as a miracle and act of wonder, even though the BAS has a rite for this. We know it took many women much time to recover from childbirth, and that many others gave their lives for their children. No wonder Mary and Joseph wanted to give thanks to God as they took their baby to the Temple. There, their unobtrusive little group met Simeon, and later that day, Anna. Simeon had been prepared by the Holy Spirit to meet the Messiah, and he waited patiently; he recognized Him, even as an infant. Malachai (3:1) had written that the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his Temple. Simeon saw a light to lighten the Gentiles. He understood what was in store for Mary, and he knew that his work was now done. He could depart in peace. Light is less valuable than it was, because we dismiss darkness with the flick of a switch. It used to travel as a candle or lamp from room to room, a precious commodity. We were surrounded by darkness for almost half our lives and crippled by it. The Magi were led by God’s light to the stable, and St John saw Jesus’s life as a light that shines in the darkness. A light for the world. Simeon’s words were represented in processions with candles, commemorating Christ’s entrance to the temple, from about 350 AD onwards. The candles were blessed for many years, and the feast was known as Candlemas. Candlemas brings Christmas to an end. It is a day for those who have just entered the world and for those who are about to leave it.


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