Thanks to a generous donor, we have commissioned two paintings by Nicholas Mynheer (who sculpted the Resurrection Altar in our church) to go in the St James’s Chapel on either side of the altar. They show scenes from the life of St James, and according to the wish of the donor are to be in memory of our former Superior Sylvanus Berry CR. To install them, we need legal permission in the form of a Faculty. The following link takes you to the public notice that we have to make available for 28 days.
At the beginning of the month Thomas and Adele and I were walking through Wakefield from Westgate on our way to Linda’s funeral at the Cathedral. One of the first places we passed proclaimed in bold, confident, shiny letters a single word: ‘Truth’. I think it is a rather expensive NightClub.
The owners clearly believe the name will have appeal – will draw people looking for an experience that will take them out of themselves, enlarge their lives, be memorable.
So that got me thinking.
On the day we renew the dedication of our lives in what Michael Casey calls ‘truthful living’, what are we looking for?
Truth? Yes. Truthful living. But what is this that draws us?
Is this a quality, something that can be more or less, a practice in which to excel? With the goal of becoming Olympians of the Spirit? A training in virtue?
Or something that is quite distinct, that radiates attractiveness, beauty, splendour? Like the allure of the nightclub. Something perhaps always just unattainable, but a real treasure to be won?
The central moment in the scriptures when St James and the other apostles hear the word, the moment when the word ‘truth’ is encountered in the middle of the city, comes as Jesus tells them – and us – “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
What grips the lives of the apostles and of so many through the ages even to us in this Church today is not an ideal, shiny and bold,
and it’s not a quality to gain.
It is a ‘relating’ – a ‘being in relationship’. Truthful living is the human living Christ Jesus lives in loving response to His heavenly Father. Demanding, wrong-footing us, incomparably attractive, a relating that – utterly improbably – turned the values of the ancient world upside down. (Perhaps you can tell: I’ve started reading Tom Holland’s Dominion – and he waxes lyrical on the subject: the scandal of the God who is not Caesar, not King Herod, the God who associates with the lowly, the suffering, the crucified criminals. The God who sees and attends to all the layers that comprise human kinship.)
And this is relating which turns lives upside down in our world today, as Abbot Robert reminded us on Festival Day.
I wonder if it isn’t the allure of being in relationship that draws clients into Wakefield’s nightclub ‘Truth’.
Then the next place we saw walking through Wakefield to Linda’s funeral had the name ‘Hogarths’. I think it’s a bar, strap-line: ‘We love all things gin’.
Somehow Hogarth’s picaresque vision of human lives equally has something to do with truth. Earl Squander, Tom Rakewell and the many characters who tumble out of Hogarth’s paintings inhabit a world not unlike that of the parables. They point a moral, but our delight is in the stories they enact and the attentive love with which Hogarth depicts and skewers them.
Hogarth surely invites us, his viewers, drawn in by these colourful exaggerated lives, to find ourselves there too – and our society.
One of his paintings is entitled: ‘The Sleeping Congregation’.
When just before Chapter the monastic taster week was taking place, we talked together about the vocational journey and how we discern the work and call of God’s Spirit in our lives. We didn’t exactly suggest our lives are a Rake’s Progress, but we did recognise that the vocational path doesn’t follow a map. It’s mazy. Perhaps we take wrong turns. Maybe there is no single road. But we agreed that, wherever that takes us, God does not stop relating to us, with the fully loving relating to all things human we know in Christ.
The participants found that helpful. Our lives, so far as we lead them in God, will necessarily be marked by Resurrection – life from death.
‘Truth’ and ‘Hogarths’. They’re next door to one another.
And I found this helpful as we went to Linda’s funeral – Linda who always wanted it told plainly, who didn’t give up on serving others with love.
And so to our patron saint, St James.
If we’re tracing the pathways of lives, why did our Lord call James?
As an apostle, he does not seem to have accomplished much.
Churches founded? Books written? Or letters even?
He was always there, in the Synoptics, with Peter and John, and always seems obtuse. The careful preparation our Lord gave him led to an end at the swing of a sword a few chapters into the Book of Acts– a quick death, and without even a story like St Stephen’s to colour the bare fact.
Perhaps St James can show us that truthful living does not depend on accomplishments – or colour – or depth of understanding.
His life was lived on one note: – Christ called and he followed. “They left everything and followed him”, as St Luke puts it.
And the after-life of St James, Sant Iago, has drawn sufficient crowds into the mazy path of pilgrimage to suggest our Lord knew what he was doing.
And has drawn us too.
Here we are on St James Day, asking to be renewed in our following,
to undertake again in fellowship and with good zeal our truthful living,
gripped by the humanly unsurpassable living Christ Jesus lives in loving response to His heavenly Father.
Pledging that we are able to drink the cup that He drinks.
May he keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, united in prayer and the breaking of bread, and one in joy and simplicity of heart, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sermon for VII Sunday after Trinity, 18th July 2021
Gospel: S. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
What can be said about the scene in the Gospel we’ve just heard? The disciples had been busy in their proclaiming the good news to the kingdom of God, their missionary witness to all the people they encountered. Only last week did we hear of the beheading of John the Baptist and the disciple’s task of burying him. We can only imagine the need for some respite from their labours so when they meet Jesus he tells them to go to a place by themselves, a lonely desert place and rest. So they set out on a boat to a desert place, and doubtless thought that they would be on their own away from the crowds—after all they spent much of their time teaching, preaching, and healing in the name of Jesus. But it wasn’t long before they would be recognised by the crowds who managed to get to the desert place before them.
Imagine the look on their faces when they arrive at their oasis where they would be on their own, a place where they could rest and relax but it was inhabited with crowds of people. This was supposed to be their time away from the hustle and bustle of encountering the multitude they couldn’t even eat in peace. Not only did the crowd recognise the disciples but Jesus as well. Yet Jesus saw all these people as virtual wanderers appearing like lost sheep and he had compassion for them. They knew he had the power to heal so they didn’t waste any time in letting others know. Think of being right in the middle of a busy market square—-hordes of people are milling around—going about their everyday business, in the middle of all this seemingly orderly day, you see men and women carrying or dragging stretchers to the centre of the market square—there are people on the stretchers: the blind, the lame, the deaf, the deformed, the drug addict and alcoholic, the outcast and possessed, all the attributes of human suffering. Jesus had compassion for the crowds who pursued him and his disciples for healing and teaching. Jesus’ compassion to instruct was to bring openness and a guiding hand to those who were bewildered and lost.
Jesus tells us to come away, to a desert place, by ourselves, and rest awhile. By coming away—leaving behind modern technology and social media that would otherwise interfere with our complete and utter surrender to God; a desert place —- ideally a place which is virtually uninhabited by others; by ourselves—hermit like, alone, and rest awhile—without distractions, deadlines, meetings. Simply resting awhile—not something that is on-going but temporary.
One of the things we have experienced during lock-down during the past year was the absence of our guests and we know that guests are an important aspect of our ministry within the Community. We want them to share in our life. S. Benedict points out that all guests should be received in the monastery alike Christ. It is part of our vocation within the monastic tradition. Guests come to Mirfield for all sorts of reasons: sharing in the prayer life and worship of the Community, a time away to be spiritually refreshed and renewed, to engage with brethren for spiritual direction, confession or just to have someone to talk or listen to. All of these and much more we welcome. In today’s Gospel the crowds had come to see Jesus, to be nourished by Him in spirit, soul and body. They came for healing, physical as well as spiritual and they listened to what He had to say. In a sense we can see the multitudes of people, like the crowd, coming to a desert place such as Mirfield—where they feel welcome, safe, leaving behind their daily routine—for a day or several days. During a session in chapter we spent time on the implications when restrictions on lockdown have been removed and we return to some sort of normality. One of the challenges that face us will be the restoration of monastic hospitality and the impact it will have on us as well as our guests, but we believe are necessary if we are to sustain the life to which God has called us. I am sure that our guests and extended CR family will appreciate that we brothers also need some time to ourselves as a Community.
Just as the disciples needed a desert place where they could go and rest awhile away from the crowds, we need to find a place to recharge our own spiritual batteries from time to time and to take stock of our life together as Sons of the Resurrection. If we don’t make space and time for ourselves, how are we to care and minister to others who we are called to serve?
I’d like to end with a poem inspired by Psalm 49, written by Father Malcolm, our Retreat Conductor, for it reminded me of those who come to share our life, here in this place, as fellow pilgrims on a journey, our visitors and guests:
Where Christ Himself is there to welcome you then you are home, wherever you may fare and Christ will keep your inner compass true, though the world is rushing everywhere, this way and that before the winds of fear, between false hopes and premature despair. But you can hear a different tune. You hear the strong song of his love. Open your ears to hear his parables. The foolish veer, between their fatuous desires and fears, with fickle fortunes that they fear to share. Keep your security in Christ, who hears the slightest murmur of your smallest prayer, and do not be afraid, but trust in him, your hearts in heaven keep your treasure there. Amen.
This content is reserved for Mirfield companions
Saturday 10 July
We look forward to welcoming you to join with us for our Festival Day and hope you have a blessed and fruitful visit.
Due to current restrictions we have had to significantly reduce numbers for Festival Day this year, we kindly ask that you only attend if you have booked with our guest department, we will not be admitting any visitors or guests who have not previously booked.
Covid-19 Restrictions and Guidelines: while we are very close to all restrictions being lifted, transmission of the virus is again rising, we kindly ask that everyone remains mindful of each other and of the brethren, who will be in circulation with a crowd for the first time. Please follow all guidance provided in your programme and if you are feeling unwell or have any symptoms we ask that you do not attend.
Middle gates will be open from 10am – Please do not attend site before 10am. Some onsite parking will be available and it is possible to park on the road outside. On arrival please go our welcome station, which will be set up outside the main church entrance, to collect a programme, timetable and a track and trace slip.
Although we would love to welcome all our friends and supporters to join with us in person, it is still not possible to do so. For those not attending we will be live streaming our services on our Facebook streaming page and a number of brethren will be giving talks, which will be made available on our YouTube channel.
This year Festival Day will be focusing on the environment and our response to it. As we are unable to welcome all our friends and supporters to join with us in person, we will be live streaming our services on our Facebook streaming page, we will also be posting daily videos which have been created by members of the Community and their friends, as we lead up to Festival Day on Saturday.
This year Festival Day will be focusing on the environment and our response to it. As we are unable to welcome all our friends and supporters to join with us in person, we will be live streaming our services on our Facebook streaming page, we will also be posting daily videos on YouTube, which have been created by members of the Community and their friends, as we lead up to Festival Day on Saturday.
The Community wishes to offer thanks for all of your well wishes and prayers for Br Patrick, who took his simple vows in the Community of the Resurrection during mass on the Feast of St Thomas, 3rd July.
SERMON: HR July 4th 2021 Trinity 5
Amos 7: 1-7; Mark 6: 1-13; 2 Cor. 12: 2-10
“What do you see?”
May I speak in the name of God: Father Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN
“What do you see?” God asks the prophet Amos today. One of the finest priests I know had a struggle with sight throughout his life. Our brother Eric remarked, “I don’t recognise the Church into which I was ordained.” He wasn’t unique, because this isn’t a complaint restricted only to clergy. Visiting my former English teacher on one occasion, Mr Cowan similarly lamented that, as a HoD, he was spending less and less time advancing his enthusiasm for literature-teaching, and rather being persuaded to do things he didn’t really want to by “them over there.” Yet both men in their respective professions, stayed the course. Both were determined to give themselves fully to their respective ministry, although neither of them were beginning to recognise their vocation amidst it. Somehow the institutions of school and Church conspired to get in the way, to overpower the simple beauty and first love of the vision. Neither Eric nor Mr Cowan were going to let that happen, however. They saw and lived beyond the strictures of corporate policy, embracing the light and freedom which had always drawn them; the exceptional space in which love rules, creates and sustains relationships, and generates life in all its fullness.
“What do you see?” It is a penetrating question in this season of ordinations and postulancies of vow-taking and renewal. So, as the church is redressed in its call and response to the voice of God: What do you see in this season?
Petertide is that somewhat ironical season of the Church’s year in which we celebrate and give thanks for the sacrament of ordination as God offers Godself through the grace of diaconal and priestly charges to the men and women of the kingdom. It’s somewhat ironical because the man, the rock upon which God builds this kingdom is flat-footed and quick-tempered, rushing in where angels fear to tread. A fool? Well that depends on your plumb-line, doesn’t it? If Peter is, it would seem that the wisdom of God favours such as these. The exceptions, the misfits, the erstwhile recognisers of heaven in ordinary. The Kingdom is opened up to those who, in not quite seeming to get it, receive it all and in receiving, manifest the true vineyard church of which Amos becomes a prophet.
In the authenticity of his visions, Amos is able give voice to God’s judgment upon Israel; to communicate beyond the sight of the naked eye the very real consequences of their sin, as God literally levels with him through the image of the plumb-line. So it is the vinedresser, grafted to his grower’s voice, who becomes the redresser of a wayward kingdom. Amos, fully himself, inhabits and opens up space to herald the way of justice and fruitfulness which is the life of God; Amos, in all his fullness, is who God sees and chooses and tasks with a call toward what cannot be seen; a call to imagine and inhabit the exceptional space where truth is revealed and the pain and glory of love lived in and lived out. Where did the farmer or indeed the carpenter’s son, get all this?
It can only come from within the exception itself, can it not? Jürgen Moltmann said, “God is… the wide space of our hope” as well as our happiness and our torment. We live in love because we make tents and teach and tend trees; it is not in spite of who we are created to be that God bears us and sends us, but because he sees beyond us into the exceptions of that wide space. – When we doubt, like St. Thomas; when we fail like Paul; when we stand on the edge at the humble midpoint of joy and sorrow. When we just simply don’t recognise.
So God comes to dwell with us; to adorn us with grace sufficient for the course; the laying on of holy-curing hands gouged with nails, daubed with mud and spit, and stretched over our unbelief to transform it with judgment and the remembrance of mercy.
We see into and inhabit the weak and wounded exceptional space who is Christ our Lord and God ever and again through the breaking of the bread in which we recognise him; we’re able to see again by faith; to love again, to become fully ourselves again. It’s in that place of transformation, in knowing our receipt of it, that we can boast with Paul’s boast when the temporal threatens to overwhelm our vision of the eternal, to obscure the vision for which we are created, how, with Thomas and Amos and Paul, we also are empowered by grace alone and called forth into the hopefulness of the true vineyard to strengthen it in the very weakness of love.
Jesus shows that paradox in himself in Nazareth once more today: “Except [for their unbelief], he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” (Mk. 6:5). This mystery of love is powerful in all its simplicity; it is incarnate in God’s habitation of our nature and forever glorified in the might of passion and resurrection. Not always paths we can follow or ways we can easily understand, but good ways; near ways and sure. Ways that like Thomas and our brother Eric, we have indeed touched and seen and will come to know again in bread and wine. “Blessed are those who have not seen indeed, and yet have come to believe.”
If there is any reason to boast in this holy season, then, it is not through orders or professions, wonderful green shoots that these are; rather let us boast that in Christ our hope and call, we see our God made visible, and so are caught up into the love of the God we cannot see; let us boast that we are each known and loved beyond mortal sight to build up his church as he is calling us, to the ends of the earth. AMEN
Saturday 10th July
Due to current restrictions we have had to significantly reduce numbers for Festival Weekend this year. We are now fully booked for both residential and day guests and will not be taking any further bookings. We kindly ask that you only attend if you have booked with our guest department, we will not be admitting any visitors or guests who have not previously booked.
Although we would love to welcome all our friends and supporters to join with us in person, it is still not possible to do so. We will be live streaming our services on our Facebook streaming page and a number of brethren will be giving talks, which will be made available on our YouTube channel. A timetable of our online events will be available in due course
Thank you for your continued support.