We all of us expect in our clergy life and work to be one, to be all of a piece. You cannot be a profoundly effective, successful and good priest, unless you are a profoundly effective, successful and good human being, socially and familially. It is not a matter of choice, the one cannot be complete without the other.
For the artist it might well be that If they are not, can they be the real thing? For the priest not so. Holiness is also wholiness. Perfection of life and of work need to be yoked. Pity me! Pity us! A busy week. I might have had a good day off, but since then I have been too busy to diarise and so I conclude this weekly column with an article I wrote some years ago, one that is based upon another wonderful poem Loss of Faith.
It is set in Dover, and Arnold is staying at an inn with his bride. They are on the way to honeymoon in Europe.
He stands looking out of a window over Dover Beach and the English Channel on a lovely evening The sea is calm to-night. The tide is full, the moon lies fair. Upon the straits;—on the French coast the light. Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,. Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! Only, from the long line of spray. Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,. At their return, up the high strand,.
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,. With tremulous cadence slow, and bring.
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The eternal note of sadness in. The Sea of Faith. But now I only hear. Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,. Retreating, to the breath. Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear.
Gene Piotrowsky (Author of The Adventures Of Murray The Misunderstood Moray Eel)
And naked shingles of the world The poem is suffused with sadness, regret and unease at the ebbing of Christian Faith among the intelligentsia of his day, including himself. Faith is widely decried, diminished and despised. Its demise is predicted and anticipated with relish. The influence of the Christian Faith upon our civilization is portrayed as largely inimical, and it is not infrequently argued that loss of faith will improve the world enormously.
Our civilization arises largely out of the Christian faith. Christianity has provided not only most of its foundation stones, but also much of its cement. The continuing decline in Faith will have and indeed is having incalculable consequences.
To replace as role models the extravagantly self-sacrificing Saints of old with the extravagantly self-indulgent pop stars of today, is bound to have enormous and almost certainly regrettable consequences. A retreat from the awe and reverence associated with traditional worship of God into navel gazing, self obsession and narcissism could well be as dangerous as it is deplorable. Ah, love, let us be true. To one another! To lie before us like a land of dreams,. So various, so beautiful, so new,.
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,. Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;. And we are here as on a darkling plain. Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,. Where ignorant armies clash by night. Now, however, the retreating tide of faith has washed that view of marriage and human love away. Wherein then lies any consolation in the brave new liberal world of our faithless intelligentsia?
So stand firm in the faith! How very early are the promises of spring in this part of the world.
Beser Bay Homestay
Blackbirds, ravens and owls. On returning from the church to the rectory on Wednesday morning, while it was still dark, having let Geoff in to say his prayers and have a cup of tea, I heard the first blackbird song of the season. This is always a great joy to me, because not only is it a very lovely song, it also brings the England of my childhood back to me. The two great ravens that have nested for the last couple of years in the large gum tree on the front lawn have also been swaggering and lumbering about for several weeks, preparing for their brood.
On the same Wednesday that I heard the first blackbird song I also observed a barn owl, disturbed from its roost in the little fountain garden on the south side of the church.
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Pursued by the ravens it flew insouciantly and silently into one of the Maude Street plane trees, disdainful of the ravens. I like the thought of owls about the church. Perhaps because they symbolically emphasise the ancient wisdom of which our church is the guardian. I have heard and seen boobook owls about the church before, but never a barn owl.
Myles Coverdale. Wednesday and Saturday mornings are good for another reason. They come from the very first complete English version of the Bible, which was produced by Myles Coverdale — To me their music is incomparable. In Psalm 59 there is talk of the wicked grinning like a dog and running about through the city.
It is a memorable and apt simile because dogs at rest, with their mouths open and their great pink tongues resting on their teeth, do indeed look as if they are grinning a mirthless grin; and sometimes, like the wicked, they do appear to grudge if they be not satisfied. Dogs in the ancient world. Certainly the sorts of dogs that the Israelites kept would have. There is very little reason to suppose that the ancient Jews kept dogs as pets in the sense of having warm relation-ships with them, of the sort that I have with my cantankerous Pippin.
The Egyptians did though. Hundreds of carefully mummified dogs have been discovered in the tombs of Egypt.