How to serenade an axolotl


I came to Westminster Abbey in November. Back then, we all thought we understood the work that needed to be done. Now, the doors of the Abbey are firmly closed. Where hundreds of visitors once walked and chatted (or listened to our headphones), there is now silence and space. My colleagues, the Abbey staff and volunteers, who would be here happily handling the crowds, are suspended. The great doors of the enclosure are closed; This is truly a gated community. We are different and we expect a different future.

(“I hate selfies …”)

We are the national memorial and royal venue, VE Day, Armistice, the Florence Nightingale celebration – everything has changed now. How will we “meet” here in the coming months? I wonder about the different work that needs to be done. I also wonder how I can escape the personal and introverted experience of life indoors, to find again the language of the Kingdom where we rejoice and wait together.

What words will we use? What story will we tell? As an ordinary, in a sermon class with Richard Holloway, I offered a whimsical text that begins with a famous bear. Bad mistake. Richard Holloway stared at me and said, “I searched for the madness of grace. And what did I get? Winnie-the-bloody-Pooh.

He was absolutely right. God’s grace is a powerful and disturbing thing. Yet these days, concerned with the challenges I face, while others stand in the way of great danger, I am glad they remind me that grace is not always wild.

Me image it hangs just above the Abbey, in the National Gallery. Only a few weeks ago, I was able to enter for a few moments, to stop and regain calm, while adapting to new challenges in a new place. Fra Filippo Lippi’s Ad (down) is strong in calm; It was painted for a domestic space. This is an image and a grace that you can live with. It is an icy moment and a carefully closed space.

A dove hovers before the belly of our Lady. An enlarged image will show you what looks like a sequence of still shots from the camera: it is the measured flight of the pigeon. You will also need that larger image to see the tender golden rays leaping toward Mary, heralding the beginning of salvation in Christ. When Elizabeth Jennings wrote “The Annunciation,” she imagined “great saves” holding on to Mary’s side. Richard Holloway could be satisfied with that. This image is more like what Edwin Muir imagined, an angel and a girl who “neither speaks nor makes movements”: grace comes softly, in closed spaces, changing everything.

I have been reading a good amount of poetry and a group of friends have supported me exchanging poems by email, under the slogan “Pills to purge melancholy”. Among some substantial and serious offers, I came across the first poem I have seen about serenading an axolotl. The trick, apparently, is to sing “salamander songs, give him everything you have”. That made me smile.

However, for a more sustained reading, I have not turned to the old favorites, because I wanted a new stimulus. I really enjoyed the new Anne Tyler book, Redhead by the roadside. The central character is in a block of his own. In wonderful prose, Tyler delves into a very ordinary life, family struggles, and quiet heroism: “What’s the point of living if you don’t try to do better?”

I LISTEN occupationally a lot of wonderful choirs music, and now we miss us and our musicians very much. I’ve been playing john sheppard Media Vita and again.

The idea that “in the midst of life we ​​are in death” may not seem particularly encouraging, but this is a sustained meditation on the love and mercy of God, in whom we have
Our beginning and end. It is also an amazingly beautiful composition. The top line seems to be permanently lodged high up in the sky, and there is a quiet confidence, in a composition that includes a Nunc Dimittis, that our eyes will indeed see salvation.

As I search for the right words and stories for our different future, I turn to Gospel of St. Luke and the road to Emmaus: “Starting with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] He interpreted things for himself in all the scriptures ”(Luke 24:27). He tells the two fearful and bewildered travelers a story that brings all things together and avoids no difficulty; A story that spans Good Friday and Easter, battling hope and the meaning of apparent chaos in an amazing act of theological and historical imagination. Christ reminds us that we are never isolated from God and that, whatever confusions we feel, our story began at creation and ends at redemption.

Reassured, if still challenged, I turn to the sentence from one of my greatest predecessors, Lancelot Andrewes: “Be, Lord, within me to strengthen me, without me to preserve, above me to take refuge, below me to support, before I lead, behind me to bring turn around me to fortify. “Amen.

The Very Reverend David Hoyle is the Dean of Westminster.

Next week: Margaret Sentamu

What love will do

iStockFlorence Nightingale in one of the renovated rooms of the Scutari Hospital

Nurse and reformer Florence Nightingale, whose bicentennial whose birth was celebrated on Tuesday, was forced by a deep spiritual calling. Throughout his life, he referred to a “call” from God that he received on February 7, 1837, when he was 16 years old.

Later, she wrote: “I have seen his face, the crown of glory inseparably united with the crown of thorns, giving the same light. He has called me three times: once at His service (February 7, 1837), once to be a Deliverer (May 7, 1852), once to the cross (July 28, 1865), to suffer even more than I’ve done so far. “

Despite, or because of, her direct relationship with God, Florence Nightingale had a complicated relationship with the Church, pointing out its deficiencies and questioning some of the doctrines that were then current, and not least the casual acceptance that suffering was part of God. will for humanity, the belief that she fought throughout her life. She periodically worked on a theological work, Suggestions for thinking, which she never prepared for publication. It was only published as a curiosity later (it has 829 pages).

He only had two religious works published during his life, both articles in Fraser Magazine in May and July 1873. In this excerpt from the first article, “An‘ Note ’for Interrogation”, he describes infectious diseases as a warning to stay alert before God and a call to action to improve social conditions.

It is said of the French soldier in an expeditionary force that he always wants to know where he is going, what he is doing, why he is suffering. Except on the condition of letting him know this, you will not take from him all that he can give. And if anyone can justly be called an expeditionary force, surely it is the expedition of humanity sent by God to conquer the earth, conquer perfection, create heaven! How can man give his best unless he knows it? . . What is God’s plan for him in this world and in the next? . . And why did you put him here to suffer so much? . . .

How is it possible to teach that God is “love” or that God has some duty, unless God commands some duty, unless God has a plan to bring us all to perfection? How can we work if there is no such plan? . . .

To please God, they tell me with justice, it is the end of our being, but I must know what God is like to know what it is that pleases Him. The most appalling crimes this world has ever seen have been perpetrated “to please God.” . .

This is another of those curious practical errors that span the centuries from misunderstanding of God’s character, the belief that he is pleased, that he is best worshiped, with ceremonial, not moral, service. How could this error have originated in Christianity, since Christ can be said to have preached beyond all other things? spiritual service of God, serving Him serving man? . . .

First, there is no use in saying that God is just, unless we define what justice is. . . Take another commonly used word, “love.” It is no use saying that God is love, unless we define what love will do. . .

Take the newspapers of the day for illustrations. (Book announcement): London fever: its social and health lessons. Exactly how we discover the real facts, we discover that each one of those facts has given him only the lesson that will lead us to social improvement. . .

Now take the real facts of “infection”. What is your lesson? Exactly the lesson that we should teach, if we wanted to stimulate man to social improvement. The lesson of “infection” is to remove the filthy, overcrowded conditions of all kinds of filth under which men live. And even if the immutable will of God did not link the so-called “infectious” disease to these conditions, it would be inseparable from social improvement if these conditions were removed.

The disease is the Elijah earthquake, which forces us to attend, to listen to the “small and gentle voice”. Can we not therefore say that the “infection” (facts and doctrine) shows that God is a God of love? And this is just an instance.