In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.
Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death,
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins his blood had spilt,
And helped to nail him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did:
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live’.
Thus while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
John Newton, 1725-1807
O what a cunning guest
Is this same grief! within my heart I made
Closets; and in them many a chest;
And, like a master in my trade,
In those chests, boxes; in each box, a till:
Yet grief knows all, and enters when he will.
No screw, no piercer can
Into a piece of timber work and wind,
As God’s afflictions into man,
When he a torture hath designed.
They are too subtle for the subtlest hearts;
And fall, like rheums, upon the tend’rest parts.
We are the earth; and they,
Like moles within us, heave, and cast about:
And till they foot and clutch their prey,
They never cool, much less give out.
No smith can make such locks but they have keys:
Closets are halls to them; and hearts, high-ways.
Only an open breast
Doth shut them out, so that they cannot enter;
Or, if they enter, cannot rest,
But quickly seek some new adventure.
Smooth open hearts no fast’ning have; but fiction
Doth give a hold and handle to affliction.
Wherefore my faults and sins,
Lord, I acknowledge; take thy plagues away:
For since confession pardon wins,
I challenge here the brightest day,
The clearest diamond: let them do their best,
They shall be thick and cloudy to my breast.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.
The Child’s first cry came like a bell:
God’s Word aloud, God’s Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
and Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
to you another gift was given,
your earthly father chosen well.
With Joseph I was always warmed
and cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, though above the angels swarmed,
man’s love it was that made me able
to bear God’s love, wild, formidable,
to bear God’s will, through me performed.
‘O Sapientia’ by Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007
O God, who from the house of thy servant David didst raise up Saint Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son, and spouse of his Virgin Mother: give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
Robert Herrick, 1591-1674
One step more, and the race is ended;
One word more, and the lesson’s done;
One toil more, and a long rest follows
At set of sun.
Who would fail, for one step withholden?
Who would fail, for one word unsaid?
Who would fail, for a pause too early?
Sound sleep the dead.
One step more, and the goal receives us;
One word more, and life’s task is done;
One toil more, and the Cross is carried
And sets the sun.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Rossetti’s poem is based on the traditional Epistle, found in the Book of Common Prayer and the Extraordinary Form, appointed for Septuagesima from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: ‘Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things: now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away’.
Septuagesima – seventy days
To Easter’s primrose tide of praise;
The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc
Mean Lent is near, which makes you think.
Septuagesima – when we’re told
To ‘run the race’, to ‘keep our hold’,
Ignore injustice, not give in,
And practise stern self-discipline;
A somewhat unattractive time
Which hardly lends itself to rhyme.
But still it gives the chance to me
To praise our dear old C. of E.
So other Churches please forgive
Lines on the Church in which I live,
The Church of England of my birth,
The kindest Church to me on earth.
There may be those who like things fully
Argued out, and call you ‘woolly’;
Ignoring Creeds and Catechism
They say the C of E’s ‘in schism’.
There may be those who much resent
Priest, Liturgy, and Sacrament,
Whose worship is what they call ‘free’,
Well, let them be so, but for me
There’s refuge in the C of E.
And when it comes that I must die
I hope the Vicar’s standing by,
I won’t care if he’s ‘Low’ or ‘High’
For he’ll be there to aid my soul
On that dread journey to its goal,
With Sacrament and prayer and Blessing
After I’ve done my last confessing.
And at that time may I receive
The Grace most firmly to believe,
For if the Christian’s Faith’s untrue
What is the point of me and you?
But this is all anticipating
Septuagesima – time of waiting,
Running the race or holding fast.
Let’s praise the man who goes to light
The church stove on an icy night.
Let’s praise that hard-worked he or she
The Treasurer of the PCC.
Let’s praise the cleaner of the aisles,
The nave and candlesticks and tiles.
Let’s praise the organist who tries
To make the choir increase in size,
Or if that simply cannot be,
Just to improve its quality.
Let’s praise the ringers in the tower
Who come to ring in cold and shower.
But most of all let’s praise the few
Who are seen in their accustomed pew
Throughout the year, whate’er the weather,
That they may worship God together.
These, like a fire of glowing coals,
Strike warmth into each other’s souls,
And though they be but two or three
They keep the Church for you and me.
Sir John Betjeman CBE, 1906-1984
And first, O Lord, I praise and magnify thy Name
For the Most Holy Virgin-Mother of God,
who is the Highest of thy Saints.
The most Glorious of thy Creatures.
The most Perfect of all thy Works.
The nearest unto Thee in the Throne of God.
Whom thou didst please to make
Daughter of the Eternal Father,
Mother of the Eternal Son.
Spouse of the Eternal Spirit,
Tabernacle of the most Glorious Trinity.
Mother of Jesus.
Mother of the Messias.
Mother of him who was the Desire of all Nations.
Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Mother of the King of Heaven.
Mother of our Creator.
Mother and Virgin.
Mirror of Humility and Obedience.
Mirror of Wisdom and Devotion.
Mirror of Modesty and Chastity.
Mother of Sweetness and Resignation.
Mirror of Sanctity.
Mirror of all Virtues.
The most illustrious Light in the Church,
wearing over all her beauties the veil of Humility
to shine the more resplendently in thy Eternal Glory.
Thomas Traherne, 1636-1674
There came to me assistance,
Mary fair and Bride;
As Anna bore Mary,
As Mary bore Christ,
As Eile bore John the Baptist
Without flaw in him,
Aid thou me in mine unbearing,
Aid me, O Bride!
As Christ was conceived of Mary
Full perfect on every hand,
Assist thou me, foster-mother,
The conception to bring from the bone;
And as thou didst aid the Virgin of joy,
Without gold, without corn, without kine,
Aid thou me, great is my sickness,
Aid me, O Bride.
from the Carmina Gadelica, 1900
translated from the Gaelic by Alexander Carmichael, 1832-1912
O God, who to the blessed Abbess Brigid gavest grace to imitate Christ in his poverty, and with humble heart to follow him in the end: grant that all who enter the path of Gospel perfection may neither look back nor go astray from the way; but hastening to thee without stumbling, may attain the crown of eternal life whereunto thou dost call them; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘That the First Charles does here in triumph ride,
See his son reign where he a martyr died,
And people pay that reverence as they pass,
(Which then he wanted!) to the sacred brass,
Is not the effect of gratitude alone,
To which we owe the statue and the stone;
But Heaven this lasting monument has wrought,
That mortals may eternally be taught
Rebellion, though successful, is but vain,
And kings so killed rise conquerors again.
This truth the royal image does proclaim,
Loud as the trumpet of surviving Fame’.
‘On the Statue of King Charles I at Charing Cross in the Year 1674’
by Edmund Waller, 1606-1687
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Diary of a Church Mouse
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle’s brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptised, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes...it’s rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher’s seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn’t think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God’s own house,
But all the same it’s strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don’t see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.
Sir John Betjeman CBE, 1906-1984
Kings should offer gold, rich, royal men –
And I am poor and no red gold have I;
Must I stay in the cold, sad shadows then,
While kings in light spread splendours splendidly?
Saints should offer incense, holy men –
My shabby soul is soiled and stained with sin;
Must I wait, shut without the stable then,
While saints join kings to offer gifts within?
Lo, I am not alone, but round me here
In the wan shadows, waiting wistfully
With nothing else to bring but only myrrh,
Stands silent, shy, a grey-clad company.
’Tis well for us, we of the common crowd,
That we may bring sad symbollings of myrrh,
Where God lies sleeping ’neath a stable shroud
Of common straw, and leave our offerings there.
We will be glad the incense makes a veil
To hide us somewhat, and the saint’s pure prayer
Goes with the golden gifts where we must fail;
Yet we will dare to bring our meed of myrrh.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘Come along, shepherds’, the Angels cried,
‘Come along, every one!
For great things happen on earth to-night,
And you shall see a wondrous sight –
In bed of straw, on napkin white,
Come down to earth from heaven’s height
God’s own Eternal Son’.
‘Come along, comrades’, the Shepherds cried,
And quick those men did run,
And in they pressed through the humble door,
And low they knelt on the stable floor,
Where Mary and Joseph, as poor as poor,
In rich contentment did adore
God’s own Eternal Son.
‘Come along, Christians’, the bells ring out,
‘Ding-a-dong, come along, come along!’
For round the Altar tapers shine,
Where waits our Saviour, yours and mine,
Veiled ’neath the mystic Bread and Wine,
And every soul should be a shrine
For God’s Eternal Son.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Lord Jesus Christ, who by thy wondrous holiness didst adorn a human home, and by thy subjection to Mary and Joseph didst consecrate the order of earthly families: grant that we, being enlightened by the example of their life with thee in thy Holy Family, and assisted by their prayers, may at last be joined with them in thine eternal fellowship; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
The photos above show the Church of St John the Evangelist, Calgary, in the Canadian province of Alberta, whose Feast of Title it is today. It was my very great privilege to be able to serve this parish for almost nine years as both the Anglican priest-in-charge and, six months later, the Catholic parish priest, a feat that was only possible on account of the courage and faith of the people in accepting, all the way back in 2010, the gracious invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to enter into the fulness of Catholic communion under the provision of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. It was a document that gave life and hope for the future to this historic Anglo-Catholic Prayer Book parish in the Anglican Diocese of Calgary (second only in age to the cathedral). Happy feast day, St John’s clergy and parishioners!
Hosanna! yet again,
Another glorious day,
Ye cherubs sing and play,
Ye seraphs swell the strain.
Hail! highly favour’d man,
Thy name and lot transcend
All praise that e’er was penn’d
Since first the verse began.
O dear to Christ supreme,
His bosom friend declar’d,
And yet for all he car’d
With tenderness extreme.
As Benjamin was blest,
When he to Egypt came,
By Joseph full of fame,
And honour’d o’er the rest.
But Christ was meek and poor,
No chariot his to ride,
No Goshen to divide,
No favours to procure.
Yet in his realms above,
Which are the highest heav’n,
First of th’ elect elev’n,
Thou claim’st thy master’s love.
Christopher Smart, 1722-1771
Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church: that she being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that she may at length attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy’s Day
Teach me to tarry till Thou bidst me go,
Waiting in patience, listening quietly,
Resting contented, sleeping dreamlessly
Like Samuel of old, for well I know
That Thou wilt call me when ‘’Tis time to go’.
Teach me to tarry till the light doth shine,
Knowing full well there is no night with Thee;
And if I cannot work, then tranquilly
Offer my worship in my prison here
Till in the East some stretch of dawn appear.
Teach me to tarry till the fight be done,
And to die fighting though I seem to fail
With dented helm and broken hand and mail,
All hewn and tarnished, so my poor life’s loss
May life where falls the Shadow of Thy Cross.
Teach me to tarry till Thou bidst me come;
Teach me to tarry till my heart is pure,
Trusting thy love for me Thy purpose sure:
Lord, Thou wilt fit me for Thy Father’s Home,
Teach me to tarry, but yet bid me – Come!
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O day of life, of light, of love!
The only day dealt from above!
A day so fresh, so bright, so brave,
’Twill show us each forgotten grace,
And make the dead, like flowers, arise
Youthful and fair to see new skies.
All other days, compared to thee,
Are but Light’s weak minority;
They are but veils, and cypress drawn
Like clouds, before thy glorious dawn.
O come! arise! shine! do not stay,
Dearly lov’d day!
The fields are long since white, and I
With earnest groans for freedom cry;
My fellow-creatures too say “Come!”
And stones, though speechless, are not dumb.
When shall we hear that glorious voice
Of life and joys?
That voice, which to each secret bed
Of my Lord’s dead,
Shall being true day, and make dust see
The way to immortality?
When shall those first white pilgrims rise,
Whose holy, happy histories
– Because they sleep so long – some men
Count but the blots of a vain pen?
Dear Lord! make haste!
Sin every day commits more waste;
And Thy old enemy, which knows
His time is short, more raging grows.
Nor moan I only – though profuse –
Thy creature’s bondage and abuse;
But what is highest sin and shame,
The vile despite done to Thy name;
The forgeries, which impious wit
And power force on Holy Writ,
With all detestable designs,
That may dishonour those pure lines.
O God! though mercy be in Thee
The greatest attribute we see,
And the most needful for our sins;
Yet, when Thy mercy nothing wins
But mere disdain, let not man say
“Thy arm doth sleep”, but write this day
Thy judging one: descend, descend!
Make all things news, and without end!
Henry Vaughan, 1621-1695
This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect
God’s virgin. Gone is a great while, and she
Dwelt young in Nazareth of Galilee.
Unto God’s will she brought devout respect,
Profound simplicity of intellect,
And supreme patience. From her mother’s knee
Faifthul and hopeful; wise in charity;
Strong in grave peace; in pity circumspect.
So held she through her girlhood, as it were
An angel-watered lily, that near God
Grows and is quiet. Till, one dawn at home,
She woke in her white bed, and had no fear
At all – yet wept ’til sunshine, and felt awed:
Because the fulness of the time was come.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828-1882
Almighty and everlasting God, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost didst prepare the body and soul
of the glorious Virgin Mother Mary to be a dwelling-place for thy Son: grant that we who rejoice in her Presentation
may at her tender intercession be kept unspotted, and made a pure temple for his dwelling;
who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Divine Worship: The Missal
Remembrance Sunday this year marks the centenary of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, which brought to an end the Great War. The following photographs were taken at the war memorial in the village of Hollingworth, Cheshire, on the edge of the Peak District, in the week leading up to today's commemoration. We give thanks to Almighty God for all those who, in war and conflict, fought for their nation, their monarch, for freedom and liberty, and for a better tomorrow for their sons and daughters. May their memory not fade, nor their example be lost on us in the midst of the comfort and complacency of our time. And we pray, too, especially, for the repose of the souls of all the Faithful Departed who fell in battle. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Laurence Binyon CH, 1869-1943
Fr Lee Kenyon
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