Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the patronal feast day of the Ordinariate Deanery of Saint John the Baptist in Canada. It was my privilege to serve as Dean for five years, and so my heartfelt prayers today are with all the communities, clergy, and laity as the Ordinariate continues its mission to preserve and share the great treasures of the Anglican tradition across the great dominion.
A former parishioner in Calgary wrote to me this morning, informing me that 'We had hot weather up until today when it rained all morning and into the afternoon. We've had alternating periods of heat and rain and the city is looking green and gorgeous'. Such an image put me in mind of Christopher Smart's poem, written for today's feast, which both echoes the abdunance of that welcome summer growth in the world around us, as well as the great potential for spiritual growth within the barrenness of our mortal nature.
Great and bounteous Benefactor,
We thy generous aid adjure,
Shield us from the foul exactor,
And his sons, that grind the poor.
Lo the swelling fruits of summer,
With inviting colours dyed,
Hang, for every casual comer,
O'er the fence projecting wide.
See the corn for plenty waving,
Where the lark secured her eggs -
In the spirit then be saving,
Give the poor that sings and begs.
Gentle nature seems to love us
In each fair and finished scene,
All is beauteous blue above us,
All beneath is cheerful green.
Now when warmer rays enlighten
And adorn the lengthened time,
When the views around us bright,
Days a ripening from their prime.
She that was as barren reckoned,
Had her course completely run,
And her dumb-struck husband beckoned
For a pen to write a son.
John, the child of Zacharias,
Just returning to the earth,
Prophet of the Lord Messias,
And fore-runner of his birth.
He too martyred, shall precede him,
Ere he speed to heaven again,
Ere the traitors shall implead him,
And the priest his God arraign.
John beheld the great and holy,
Hailed the love of God supreme;
O how gracious, meek, and lowly,
When baptized in Jordan's stream!
If from honour so stupendous
He the grace of power derived,
And to tyrants was tremendous,
That at fraud and filth connived;
If he led a life of rigour,
And th' abstemious vow obeyed;
If he preached with manly vigour,
Practised sinners to dissuade;
If his voice by fair confession
Christ's supremacy avowed;
If he checked the due suppression
Self-incitements to be proud.
Vice conspiring to afflict him
To the death that ends the great,
Offered him a worthy victim
For acceptance in the height.
Christopher Smart, 1722-1771
Fr Lee Kenyon
Priest, Husband, Father, Lancastrian, Mancunian