Thursday, 17 July 2014

Independence: That'll be an ecumenical matter

This ecumenical mix of Christian thinkers from various traditions has been winging its way through the Hebrides.

I haven't managed to attend one of these meetings. God knows I am attending plenty as it is but I think it would be interesting to hear Independence discussed from a Christian perspective. Their Facebook page timeline has some stories on individual Christian journeys to the Independence cause and I am sure it will continue to be an entertaining series.

Interestingly the page claims the group was formed in 2009 which is before the Scottish Government even won a mandate for a referendum on the issue and surely makes them the oldest of the most recent phenomenon of "for indy" groups such as Firemen for Indy, Taxi Drivers for Indy, Dogs for Indy, Cats for Indy and everything except Unionists for Indy. Although.... is pretty close!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Presumption and Perseverance at Vespers

When you mother tells you she needs an operation Vespers can be quite distracted. You can not do it justice. The same Psalms that last week felt they were imprinted on your very soul seem far away and meaningless. Mere sounds from your lips.

But Vespers isn't for me it is for God. I might be distracted but He isn't. Experience tells me it is so because for all the distracted prayers I have offered He has given me moments of great comfort and consolation and kept me close to him for longer than I deserve over the years. So it can not be that my distracted prayers displease Him. 

I could easily suggest to myself (and do) that because I am distracted in prayer I may as well give up and come back another time. God is not displeased. He will pick me up again some other time that is better for me. Compline or the following morning's Lauds hopefully. But that is not the answer. That is not perseverance, it is presumption. 

Please remember my special intention mentioned in your prayers. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Oh Jerusalem!

In 2013 I was lucky enough to visit the Holy Land as part of an organised visit. I was often told by people I met who were returning pilgrims that the full emotional and spiritual implications of the trip would be some time in coming to me.  It would all take time to sink in they advised me, and I would still be unravelling it long after I returned home. So it turned out. The whole thing is a cherished memory which still moves me to all kinds of emotions. 

I will ever forget the washed out faces among our group moved to tears on our first visit to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of the Tomb of the Resurrection and Calvary. I can not explain what I feel like when I look back on the making of new friends in the sunshine by the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee and the surrounding areas.

However, I wasn't prepared that upon visiting Bethlehem and the West Bank I found myself at various times overcome with emotions of a different sort and sobbing hopelessly. Audiences with representatives of the region such as the Patriarch of Jerusalem who focused on the plight of Christians in the wider region and the Mayor of Bethlehem, who naturally enough focused more on the plight of her people both cut my heart.

I can not describe the potent mix of emotions that flushed through me on any given day when it was all hitting home. They weren't people struggling in a far away country any more they were people whose eyes I had looked into on the streets of  Bethlehem and surrounding areas. Streets which themselves told their own story.  

(In the last picture of the West Bank barrier above you can see the reflection of the bus window and a fellow pilgrim.) In Bethlehem the shop-keepers had attended to us desperately. The taxi drivers had chatted to us keenly. The restaurateurs and their staff had served us diligently. Everywhere despite their circumstances there was a smile and the feeling they were grateful to have you there was palpable, and that made me grateful to be there.

Then I had to return home and felt the pangs of guilt at having to leave them there  waiting for the next set of pilgrims to alleviate their daily struggles. When I arrived home there was the coming to terms with the fact that my holiday might be over but their struggle to hold onto the little they had and even their very identity was not.

Please keep them in your prayers. That God from the abundance of His mercy look upon them and all those suffering in the region of whatever race or creed. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Feast of Our Lady of Aberdeen

The mediaeval statue of Our Lady of Aberdeen is approximately three feet high, probably carved in linden wood, and painted.  It was also decorated with silver and gold.  Our Lady carries the Christ Child in her arms and holds a sceptre.  She wears an open crown and the Child has the closed imperial crown.  The crowns and sceptre are silver and may not be the original ones.  It is commonly described as being carved in the Flemish tradition and even to have come from Flanders. There is no reason to suppose that there were no capable sculptors in the North East of Scotland, though all the evidence of their work disappeared at the time of the Reformation.
Read rest at St Mary's Inverness