Cathedrals

Early morning in Peterborough Cathedral

The early morning sun streaming through the East windows; bells tolling for worship, that fall quiet to the deep hush of this vast house of prayer. Its soaring dimensions and simple beauty simultaneously uplift and enfold the soul. These ancient stones are steeped in centuries of faithful orisons offered God-ward day and night, in word and song. We gather for prayer, humbly aware of our place in a long line of worshippers that stretches far back into the distant past.

I mused a couple of months back whilst on holiday in Chamonoix ( see Looking Up) about my response to mountains, and how they make my spirit soar. Working in the Cathedral, and being surrounded by such beauty everyday, is not unlike living with mountains, in an otherwise very flat landscape. There are many parallels. The constant changing light, that gives it so many moods and faces. The outsize dimensions and immense scale, to name just a few. This cathedral, like most, may have been built with very mixed motives, including those of power and authority, but it was primarily built to sing God’s glory.  It lifts my heart to God, and His presence is very tangible here.  Its effect on all who enter its ancient wooden doors is visible. Most simply stop and look, taking in the enormity of space. It catches me every time I walk through the building, or from one part to another- thrilling to a shaft of sunlight lighting a particular space, or the blaze of candles on the priket stand. It manages to combine both the majesty and intimacy of God in a way that is hard to explain. How such a voluminous building is able to convey intimacy, has to be experienced to be fully understood. A bit like God, I guess.


“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
Even the sparrow finds a home,and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. ”  Psalm 122

“Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
That the the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory.” Psalm 24

Come to the Quiet

An invitation to the Quiet. At the end of a busy weekend,  and at the start to the season of Lent, it is an invitation that draws me.  The need to quieten our souls  in God’s gentle Presence is an ever present one.

I have had this in the ‘drafts’ category all weekend,  looking for a link to the music that inspired the following poem.  The poem was written half a life time ago, but is one that seems to re- surface from time to time.

Come to the Quiet

A proffered hand

outstretched in plea of love

a silent empathy of prayer.

I can see

the child inside

that hides behind the man.

Fear stalks behind a laugh

and pain beyond a smile,

for in some deeper place

the child cries

and cries alone.

The bright facade

shown to the world

boasts confidence and strength-

but where I stand, beside your heart,

I cannot see your mask

I only feel your pain.

Speaking at length, in cheerful note

I could not hear your words,

your spirit’s orison of tears

touched a silent place within

and brought my own soul to my knees.

Hush then, and let the silence speak

His balm of Peace awaits us here.

If you will – then take my hand

and let us come

come to the Quiet.

The song ‘Come to the Quiet‘ is by John Michael Talbot, a Franciscan monk, and is based on Psalm 131.  I will add or make a link in the next day or two.

Psalm 131

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.

Taking God in

Theosis and Theotokos

Theosis – Participation in the nature of God .. ( 2 Peter 1:4)  In Eastern Orthodoxy, this is considered the supreme goal of the spiritual life.  I heard it described this morning as

being drawn into God’s being, and having His Being drawn into us

The speaker  Bishop Simon Barrington Ward, was talking to us about the use of that most simple, profound and ancient of prayers known as ‘The Jesus Prayer’

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me ( us), a sinner

He spoke of praying it until the prayer “prayed itself within you”  and almost became part of your subconscious- finding it on your lips at moments when you respond to situations, and as you wake.

I mused further on being drawn into God’s being, and having His Being drawn into us – through presence, our presence in His Presence.

Blurring the lines between God and us, so that we no longer know                                   where One begins and one ends.

If it were simply up to us, this could never happen, but fortunately it is up to Him.               It is His gift of grace to us, His desire to make us one with Him, as He is one with the Father. The simplest of gifts can sometimes be the hardest to receive. We can hardly believe that He means it. That He means it for us.

I linked it in my head with Theotokos – God Bearer.

The name for Mary, Jesus’ mother.

It seemed to me that as we are drawn into God’s being,                                                     so we are also made to be ‘God bearers’ .                                                                           We are given His life growing within us to take to the waiting world.                                   Like Mary, this is not without cost. It demands our ‘Yes’ and that yes is our all.

Aftermath of Angels

Who are you and who am I

that you should choose me?

Who am I now

that I have chosen

to say yes?

How can I bear the weight

of this light,

carry the child of your heart;

hold He who is Love

within the limits of my own?

Face down, I lay my head

upon the earth

hide me under the shadow

of your wing.

As you form Him in me,

shape me within your hands.

Knit my soul

to the fabric of your being,

Cradle us both

In your enfolding

and bring us to birth

encircled by grace