Sunday, 29 December 2013

December 29th 2013 - Leadership

from Rule of St Benedict, second part of chapter 64 (adapted for a female community)

Once she has been constituted,
let the Abbess always bear in mind
what a burden she has undertaken
and to whom she will have to give an account of her stewardship,
and let her know that her duty is rather to profit her sisters
than to preside over them.
She must therefore be learned in the divine law,
that she may have a treasure of knowledge
from which to bring forth new things and old.
She must be chaste, sober and merciful.
Let her exalt mercy above judgment,
that she herself may obtain mercy.
She should hate vices;
she should love the sisterhood.

In administering correction
she should act prudently and not go to excess,
lest in seeking too eagerly to scrape off the rust
she break the vessel.
Let her keep her own frailty ever before her eyes
and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken.
By this we do not mean that she should allow vices to grow;
on the contrary, as we have already said,
she should eradicate them prudently and with charity,
in the way which may seem best in each case.
Let her study rather to be loved than to be feared.
Let her not be excitable and worried,
nor exacting and headstrong,
nor jealous and over-suspicious;
for then she is never at rest.
In her commands let her be prudent and considerate;
and whether the work which she enjoins
concerns God or the world,
let her be discreet and moderate,
bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said,
"If I cause my flocks to be overdriven,
they will all die in one day."
Taking this, then, and other examples of discretion,
the mother of virtues,
let her so temper all things
that the strong may have something to strive after,
and the weak may not fall back in dismay.
And especially let her keep this Rule in all its details,
so that after a good ministry
she may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard
who gave the fellow-servants wheat in due season:
"Indeed, I tell you, he will set that one over all his goods" (Matt. 24:27).

In reading the rule of St Benedict, I have been struck by how compassion, mercy, and kindness are interwoven into the rules. There is always a "bottom line", the point at which the Rule solidifies to an immovable steeliness.

Humility and virtue, learning and prayer are prime requisites, guiding principles, for leadership in the monastery. It is useless to try and puck out one sentence, one phrase in the writing above; everything is needful, none is surplus.

Actually, I started this post from reading the two blog entries which I have copied below, related to leadership in schools.  They have a lot in common with the Rule of St B.


h/t twitter:  Alex Quigley @HuntingEnglish 17h
: This much I know about resisting the misery of life in our schools...." ”. < The time of year for hope!
Great organizations have leaders who:
  1. Have mentors and coaches.
  2. Point out uncomfortable truths quickly, honestly, and compassionately.
  3. Live authentically. Fakers can’t be trusted. Trust is foundational to influence.
  4. Monitor and manage emotional states. Feelings impact performance.
  5. Expect results and don’t make excuses.
  6. Compare themselves with their potential, not others.
  7. Concentrate on people. Love is a leadership word.
  8. Clarify and narrow focus.
  9. Make others feel powerful. Employees in great organizations don’t say, “Things never change.”
  10. Love winning and compete aggressively.
  11. Talk and act humbly. Great leaders make others great. They’re never full of themselves.
  12. Engage with others without interfering.
  13. Ask “stupid” questions. They aren’t afraid to look stupid by not knowing.
  14. Prioritize culture building.
  15. Set direction but delegate decisions to those closest to the action.
  16. Hold themselves and others to high, agreed upon, standards.
  17. Have fun. Many leaders I know take themselves too seriously.
  18. Recognize, reward, praise, and honor others.
  19. Give back to the community. Generosity is normal, not rare, for leaders who build great organizations.
  20. Face forward by thinking, talking, and acting with the future in mind.
and then from the same blog at

Great leaders always:
  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Demand the truth.
  3. Act in the best interest of their organization.
  4. Get results through others.
  5. Celebrate the success of others.
  6. Challenge the status quo.
  7. Press into the future while honoring the past.
  8. Try.
  9. Receive criticism gracefully.
  10. Learn.
  11. Inspire.
  12. Improve.
  13. Encourage.
  14. Listen more than speak.
  15. Take responsibility.
  16. Show gratitude.
  17. Pursue clarity and specificity.
  18. Engage in self-reflection.
  19. Act in alignment with who they are.
  20. Rest.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Places to Visit - St Nectan's Glen

Here's a whole new category to add to this scrapbook of things that I want to try and remember.

This looks like such a glorious place. I have copied and pasted the rest of this post from the link below.

7. St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall

St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall

Until the making of Sacred Wonders, I had never heard of St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall. It is an astonishingly beautiful, even magical spot, like a fairy glen made real. The glen has been cut by water and erosion during who knows how many millennia. What greets the visitor now is a waterfall that drops around 20m into a natural bowl and then emerges through a circular hole cut by the endless stream. Moss and lichen cloak the sheer sides, along with precariously perched trees, so the whole place has a mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere. Once revered by pre-Roman Celts, who venerated the spirit of the water, and later associated with the 6th Century Saint Nectan, it is still visited today by thousands of people from all over the world. The Arthur myth too has been bolted on and folk thereabouts believe the king and his knights came to the glen to be blessed, before heading out in search of the Holy Grail. Christians, Buddhists, pagans and curious visitors with no religious beliefs of any kind are drawn to the place to this day. Many leave little souvenirs of their visit - single coins wedged into tree trunks, old train tickets from the journey, photos and keepsakes of loved ones.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Eve 2013 - I AM

Reflection on Sermon at our church at the Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve

I was sooo tired at this service, that I could barely listen to the sermon. In the end, I let myself off, and just held on to two points.

One is an old thought, but struck me afresh; how the I AM sayings of Jesus follow on from Moses' encounter with GOD at the burning bush;     

Image from Icon Reader.
found at


Exodus 3:1-15    Moses and the Burning Bush

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation."
I wonder what Jesus actually said - for the words "I AM" were too holy to be spoken aloud. Did he really say "Jehovah the Good Shepherd", or "Jehovah the Way"? If he did, then no wonder the Jews were shocked. As if English parents called their son "Jesus" - common enough in other countries, but definitely strange and shocking in England.
The other thing that struck me is that the vicar said that Jesus never said "I was born", but always "I came", or "I have come".
John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
It makes it clear that he comes from heaven, rather than just being born. 
There were other good things in the sermon, connected, linking, expanding, illustrating how Jesus IS God, and has come to save us, now and for always, but I just stayed with these two thoughts, resolving to get them concreted into my mind before they vanished under everything else that happens at Christmas.
Emmanuel. God, with us, always, everywhere.   

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Sunday 1st December 2013

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and therefore the beginning of the Church Year.

How often have I wanted to just start again? The children that I teach are always asking "can I start again" when they make a mistake in their pieces. Sometimes I let them, other times it is important for them to learn to carry on from where they made the mistake.

I'm lucky: I get three chances to start again.

 January the 1st is the obvious one.

"This year I am going to...."         yeah, yeah, yeah.

The start of term in September is an opportunity for me to begin again, as a teacher.

"This year I am going to..."         yeah, yeah, yeah.

Today, the beginning of the "real" run-up to Christmas, I get another opportunity. This time it is a bit different. Advent is not about Making a New Start. It is about preparation, listening, waiting, bringing yourself to a state of readiness, for the New Start.

Today I have reached the totally zonked stage of tiredness - the past week has been very demanding for all sorts of reasons, mostly good reasons, but that doesn't stop it being a series of hard-pressed days.

The weekend has been "full-on" as well - I was teaching a music workshop for most of Saturday, and then "working" for both church services this morning - playing the organ, and then taking one of the children's groups. It's just how things tend to happen - like buses - all at once.

Now, it is half past three. (That's started an "ear-worm" - one of the djembe rhythms I teach goes "half past THREE! have-a-cup-of TEA!). We're having coffee, and I have lit the Advent Candle, and we shall have PEACE until it has burned as far as the ONE.

This could be something new; the ritual lighting of the candle being a signal to pause and just breathe for an inch of time.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Nov 28th 2013 Contentment - why? how?

A recent blog post from 

had a bit of a resonance with what I was thinking about on the way to work this morning.

I'm not going to go into great details. You might already know that I have an auto-immune condition called systemic sclerosis. You might know that I am lucky enough that it causes no pain, that although it slows me down (my heart and lungs are affected) I can still work and get about.

The most inconvenient things are that I have to take all kinds of different pills, have supplementary oxygen at night, and also if I travel by air, but these are not an insurmountable barriers to happiness.

The most important thing is that I have a wonderful family.

I have learned to be content.

I just remember this, from St John's Gospel chapter 10;

9"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The underlined words came into my head when I was first wrestling with the diagnosis, back in 2001, and have stayed with me ever since.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

To His Love - Ivor Gurney

copied from
heard through JohntheLutheran's tumblr site

Ivor Gurney’s “To His Love”

November 11, 2013 | by
Ivor Gurney in 1920.

In honor of Veterans Day, we are re-running this favorite post.
In the last century, a few years of sodden slaughter in France and Flanders turned British poetry from Keatsian lyricism to raw, aghast reportage. Isaac Rosenberg’s poems, for instance, moved from prewar patriotic exultation—“Flash, mailed seraphim, / Your burning spears”—to, three years later, this numb, bone-dry mutter from the trenches: “Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew / Your cosmopolitan sympathies.”
In Ivor Gurney’s “To His Love” you see the thing happening not in mid-career but in mid-poem—between lines, in a line break, specifically the last one. It’s the most astonishing line break I’ve ever encountered. It’s the sound of a culture’s poetic history cracking in half.
“To His Love” begins as an almost doggedly traditional elegy, with the Byronic echo of “We’ll walk no more on Cotswold.” It meanders through rivers, beasts, flowers, and the old tropes—nobility, “pride,” “memoried.” We are lulled into thinking that the urgency of “Cover him, cover him soon!” arises from intense soldierly love, rather than the desperate need to hide a shredded corpse, that “red, wet / Thing.” The euphemistic Latinate décor is stripped away; the haplessly tall T does it’s pitiful duty by the form, like a Tommy too shell-shocked to hide, a standing target.
The fragile Gurney was gassed and traumatized by the war, and he lived out his days in asylums.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Rule of St Benedict - Services


I'm still reading the Rule; a portion every day - ish - sometimes there is some catching up to do.

At the moment the Rule is giving instructions for the services to be said each day, and on Sundays, and on Feast Days.

Evening Service; 6 Psalms, and 4 portions of Scripture, and some Canticles, and on Sundays another 6 Psalms....   with, and without Alleluias and Glorias

I've had an interest in Benedictine communities from reading the Brother Cadfael mysteries written by Ellis Peters, set in the thirteenth century if I remember correctly, and also from following the blog of Dame Catherine

Here's a link to a typical day at her Monastery (although they are all female, it is not a convent. She explains it somewhere)
(The website contains references to Oxford, where they used to be, and Hereford, where they have moved to. Just in case you are getting confused!)

I'm grateful for these "prayer places", where real, concentrated prayer is on-going. I'm not at all sure "how" or "why" prayer is so necessary - but I do know that it is vital.  

Saturday, 19 October 2013

"And did she see there, in the straw, a thorn?"


"Pelagonitissa" icon from from Zrze in Macedonia,1421-22. 

"And a sword will pierce your own heart also." 

"Pelagonitissa" icon from from Zrze in Macedonia,1421-22. 
"And a sword will pierce your own heart also."
(via bookeofhowrs)

There is a song in the Graham Kendrick Christmas Song Cycle "Rumours of Angels" that makes me cry every time....

Actually it is one of those rare collections of songs where every one is a good one.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Rule of St Benedict

I have finally down-loaded a version of the Rule of St benedict onto my Kindle. Ever since I started following @digitalnun on twitter, and her blog in I have been intending to see what this is all about. For 75p one can hardly go wrong!

The Rule of St. Benedict

Not your usual choice of "holiday reading"?

I started reading it on 20th August or thereabouts, not at the beginning, but at the portion for the day, so the first chapter concerned the election of the Abbott.

My only "rule" has been to read just the portion for the day, and no more. It is very simply written, bearing in mind that it is in "King James Bible" language. I mean it is plain, like one thinks of Shakers and Quakers as "plain" and direct, and Good Sense. It reads "slowly", not like your usual "holiday page-turner", but is equally gripping. I'm finding it hard not to turn the page and see what comes next.

Product Details

After that, I read a chunk of Bible (currently early in Psalms) in "The Message" paraphrase; whoof! That's a contrast! Like hearing monastic chanting accompanied by a heavy rock beat.

Product Details

And if I still want to read some more, I turn to "The Phantom Tolbooth" which has an underlying morality somehow all tying with the above.

Then I sleep like a log.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Prayers from BCP - Litany, Mag and Nunc, Collect against perils of the night

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand;
and to comfort and help the weak-hearted;
and to raise up those who fall;
and finally to beat down Satan under our feet.

From the Litany in the Book of Common Prayer.

thanks to @johnthelutheran for flagging this up.

Thanks to compulsory church attendance at boarding school, there are a number of BCP prayers that are embedded in my memory.

We used to sing Evensong in Winchester Cathedral once every term. I hated our "choir robes" - a sort of drab brown cape, "buttoned down before" like Old Abram Brown in the song. It had slits that we could poke our arms through, showing the sleeves of our horrible fawn cardigans. However I am thankful for having learned how to chant Psalms, and for learning the introits and anthems.

I can only remember the "Mag" and "Nunc" if I sing them:

File:Alexandr Ivanov 011.jpg

Magnificat. St. Luke i. 46.
My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek;
He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

Nunc dimittis. St. Luke ii. 29.
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

A Collect for Aid against Perils.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

¶ At the end of every Psalm and the whole of the Psalter, the Gloria is said, as follows.

GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.


Friday, 26 July 2013

Holy Domesticity

Isn't this delightful?

An array of dishes and jugs on the shelf behind Mary's head, and her halo so radiant. I wonder what is in the little cupboards in the wall. Perhaps it is something to do with the weaving, as theu have been left open.

A hearth beside Joseph (where's HIS halo, by the way?) with a long iron ratchetty hook for hanging cooking pots on.

I wonder what Jesus is saying? He looks very happy.

Whose is the little crooked stool at Mary's feet? Is it broken, or has it been made that way on purpose? There's quite a sense of perspective in the walls of the room, but the floor has been drawn as a mathematical pattern, which makes it appear to slope steeply uphill.

Christ in a Baby walker. The Holy family at home from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves #MedievalBabies


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me - The Jesus Prayer

This is one of my favourite prayers - probably because it is so easy to remember

But it is also absolutely SOLID with meaning and nourishment, like some kind of emergency ration bar. Here is the version I learned, from Geoffrey Appleton's "Jerusalem Prayers for the world today"

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

Just twelve words, which hold a whole universe of beauty and understanding.

How do I pray it? Many different ways.

If I want the prayer to "go slowly", I meditate on the full, complete, resonance contained in every word. LORD. JESUS. CHRIST. SON. OF. GOD. HAVE (I like the continuous present tense of "have"). MERCY. UPON. ME (that's uniquely me, an individual, not one of a crowd of anonymous people) A ( not a special person, not a special case.). SINNER (for we have all fallen short.)

I use it in my "finger rosary", holding myself, or a situation, or another person in stead of "me"in my mind as I steadily recite my way around my hands.

Or I just pray it when I have no idea how to respond to something. Or when I'm apprehensive about something.

George Appleton adds that the Greek "eleison" - mercy, shares its root with "elaion" - olive - which means that the Greek "mercy" has ideas of soothing, healing, nurturing, feeding, whereas the English "mercy" has ideas of calling for relief when faced with peril, fear, torture, death, pain, judgement.

Not at all the same thing.

 And here's the post from John the Lutheran which reminded me why I love this prayer...

The Jesus Prayer: simple, rich, unceasing

A move away from politics now, with a couple of posts on one of my favourite prayers: the Jesus Prayer, described by the Swedish Lutheran pastor Per-Olof Sjögren (in his book The Jesus Prayer) as:
…one of the simplest in form but richest in content of all the prayers in the long history of Christian worship.
It comes in a number of variants. In Sjögren’s book, he uses the form, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me”, but my own preferred version (mainly because of a personal attachment to the description of God as the “living and true God”) is the following:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Traditionally this prayer is used as a “breath prayer”: breathing in on “Lord Jesus Christ”, out on “Son of the living God”, in on “have mercy upon me”, out again on “a sinner”. Indeed, some in the Orthodox Church have spoken of the prayer becoming a “self-acting” prayer of the heart, continuing even when one is unconscious of it, in fulfilment (as they would see it) of St Paul’s injunction to “pray ceaselessly”.
I can’t claim to have even come close to this “prayer of the heart”, and in some ways the idea makes me a little uneasy (perhaps due to a western, Protestant over-privileging of the conscious mind). On the other hand, I’ve become very fond of the Jesus Prayer over the past decade, and there’ve probably been few days in that period when it hasn’t flitted across my mind at some point during the day.
I hope to post a little more about this prayer over the next couple of days. In the meantime, do check out Sjögren’s book if you come across a copy of it. Sjögren writes from a very clearly Lutheran perspective, placing the prayer firmly in the context of the church’s ministry of word and sacrament, and in particular the new birth we experience in baptism and our weekly partaking of the Lord’s body and blood in holy communion. But he also writes with great sensitivity and insight concerning the Orthodox origins of the prayer: this is no “smash and grab raid” on another tradition.

and furthermore from the same blog:

The Jesus Prayer as a summary of the gospel

It is striking how the Jesus Prayer (see previous post) is able to pack so much content into so short a form:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Per-Olof Sjögren describes the prayer as “a summary of the whole gospel”, of “the whole content of the Bible”:
Besides being a direct prayer to Jesus it contains also teaching about him, about his work of redemption, his dignity as king, his deity, and his loving mercy. (The Jesus Prayer, p.17)
Bp Kallistos Ware reaches a similar conclusion in his book The Orthodox Way, where he devotes a couple of pages (pp.68f.) to looking at what the prayer “has to tell us about the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and about our healing by and in him”. Ware describes the two “poles” or “extreme points” of the prayer as follows:
“Lord … Son of God”: the Prayer speaks first about God’s glory, acclaiming Jesus as the Lord of all creation and the eternal Son.
Then at its conclusion the Prayer turns to our condition as sinners – sinful by virtue of the fall, sinful through our own personal acts of wrongdoing: “… on me a sinner”
Thus “the Prayer beings with adoration and ends with penitence”. These “two extremes of divine glory and human sinfulness” are reconciled by three words describing Jesus and the good news he brings for sinners:
  • Jesus: as Ware puts it, “this has the sense of Saviour; as the angel said to Christ’s foster-father St Joseph: ‘You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins’.”
  • Christ: this means the Anointed One, anointed by the Holy Spirit, the one whom the Jewish people awaited as “the coming deliverer, the future king, who in the power of the Spirit would set them free from their enemies”.
  • Mercy: this word “signifies love in action”, writes Ware, who continues by observing that:
    …to have mercy is to acquit the other of the guilt which by his own efforts he cannot wipe away, to release him from the debts he himself cannot pay, to make him whole from the sickness for which he cannot unaided find any cure. The term “mercy” means furthermore that all this is conferred as a free gift: the one who asks for mercy has no claims upon the other, no rights to which he can appeal.
Thus, within the space of 68 characters or fewer – short enough to be Twittered, with room to spare – the Jesus Prayer is able to summarise “both man’s problem and God’s solution”, namely the Jesus who is “the Saviour, the anointed king, the one who has mercy”.

Prayers for every hour of the day, attributed to St John Chrysostom

Another heist from JohntheLutheran

Example of arrow prayers in the Eastern Orthodox tradition is this series of 24 prayers traditionally attributed to St John Chrysostom, one for each hour of the day and night. (These prayers, in the translation below, are set to music in Arvo Pärt’s stunning choral work, Litany.)

  • O Lord, of Thy heavenly bounties, deprive me not.
  • O Lord, deliver me from the eternal torments.
  • O Lord, forgive me if I have sinned in my mind or my thought, whether in word or in deed.
  • O Lord, free me from all ignorance and forgetfulness, from despondency and stony insensibility.
  • O Lord, deliver me from every temptation.
  • O Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened.
  • O Lord, as a man have I sinned, have Thou mercy on me, as the God full of compassion, seeing the feebleness of my soul.
  • O Lord, send down Thy grace to help me, that I may glorify Thy name.
  • O Lord Jesus Christ, write me down in the book of life and grant unto me a good end.
  • O Lord my God, even if I had not done anything good before Thee, do Thou help me, in Thy grace, to make a good beginning.
  • O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace.
  • O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me, Thy sinful servant, full of shame and impurity, in Thy kingdom. Amen.
  • O Lord, receive me in penitence.
  • O Lord, forsake me not.
  • O Lord, lead me not into misfortune.
  • O Lord, quicken in me a good thought.
  • O Lord, give me tears and remembrance of death, and contrition.
  • O Lord, make me solicitous of confessing my sins.
  • O Lord, give me humility, chastity, and obedience.
  • O Lord, give me patience, magnanimity, and meekness.
  • O Lord, implant in me the root of all good – Thy fear in my heart.
  • O Lord, vouchsafe that I may love thee from all my soul and mind and in everything do Thy will.
  • O Lord, shelter me from certain men, from demons and passions, and from any other unbecoming thing.
  • O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou dost as Thou wilt, let then Thy will be done in me, a sinner, for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

"Worship" Songs

This is what I currently listen to when I can't sleep:

"Goodnight, my Angel"

the first track on the album by cantabile called "Lullabyes and Goodbyes"

The words seem to be sung to me by my lover, or my Lover, and are immensely comforting. I love all the arrangements of all the songs on the album - how often can you say that of a whole album! It was an inspired and generous gift from a piano pupil's mother.

Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)

This is what I sing as a "worship" song in the car (or about my husband too, come to think of it!)

"To know him is to love him"

from Steeleye Span's album "Now We Are Six"

To Know Him Is To Love Him

Not from the usual repertoire of worship songs!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Saturday 6th July - Prayerlife

I've been idly going through some of the old files on my laptop; the compromise for extreme lightness and portability and rapid switch-on has been no CD/DVD drive and reduced disk space, so every so often it is time to hit that delete button.

I found a file called "Prayer Chart" - that looked useful.

And so it was - NOT!

It was blank.

I wonder what it had been created for?

I don't do schedules, timetables, routines, daily notes etc. very well. It took me eighteen months to follow a "read the Bible in one year" programme, and I think that's when I learnt the useless skill of reading in my sleep.

Maybe this "prayer chart" was an attempt to bring some kind of  discipline, and "proper spirituality", into my "prayer-life". If so it clearly failed!

Whoa! Do you mean to say that one has all kinds of different lives?


I thought we had just the one life on this earth - now it looks as though we live in a multi-dimensional set of parallel worlds!

Let's start again.

File:Lutjanus kasmira school.jpg

I reckon we have just the ONE life, to be lived, like Tertullian's little fish, swimming in the sea of the Spirit, the Water of Life. 

("But we little fish, like our Fish Jesus Christ,2 are born in water, and it is only by remaining in water that we are safe."  end of para 1 here ) spurgeon sermon.
Long, but grinds exceeding small!

Saturday 6th July - This April Day - Poem for Easter Week

found this while I was clearing out my computer "drawers" today. Couldn't resist a few more edits before I copied it here - does one ever stop tinkering with something that one has made?

Sometimes a poem just arrives - not complete, but almost, like a design, or a drawing. Then with moulding and shaping, it kind of resolves itself. Other times, nope. just won't work. I've been working on one that starts "She sleeps, curled, like a dormouse" for over twenty years, off and on; the phrase came on seeing my daughter curled up in her cot (she is now 25...)

Anyway, here it is: It's still not quite right. But getting there.

This April day, warm with unseasonable sun,

Will fill your heart with joy; this Sunday is just starting.

Bright sky, pales leaves, fresh flowers. But don’t be taken in.

The clue is in the bitter wind  cutting  through your clothes.


This journey’s going nowhere. He might be riding now,

Over sacrifices of palms and cloaks thrown down along his road.

They’re all singing songs of welcome , waving, running by his side.

But very soon they’ll change their tune and call for him to die. 


Then he’ll have to walk, Trailing his feet through the dirt and grime,

weighed down with pain and fear, sweat pouring off his face.

Those arms, once opened wide  for  healing  and for blessing

Will now be wrenched, and nailed in place, for hurting and for killing.


How will it end? We know the answer. They do not.

Our sun will rise again. Their sky is black.



Good Friday 2012

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Our Lady of Vladimir

Another icon courtesy of Johnthelutheran

One day I must learn how to "read" icons properly. The Mary knows all too well what lies in the future; this Jesus has an adult face on his child-like body. It makes me desperately sad to contemplate it; a mother's worst nightmare.

It reminds me of a child with a degenerative disease that I briefly taught; how appalling for the parents, to see their beautiful girl slowly succumb to the disease robbing her of movement, speech, intellect and finally life. Maybe this icon would be a comfort, in the way that the suffering Jesus indicates that he is with us through EVERYTHING.


Our Lady of Vladimir
First third of the 12th century Wood, tempera 104 x 69
The most Orthodox and revered icon in medieval Russia, «Our Lady of Vladimir» was brought from Constantinople in the early 12th century; it was destined to become the holy of holies of the Russian state. The icon was kept in Vyshgorod, near Kiev. But it became especially revere not in Kiev but in Vladimir, where the icon was sent in 1155 by Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky. The splendid white-stone church the Assumption of the Virgin was especially built to house the icon of «Our Lady of Vladimir». On 26 August (8 September in the New Style calendar) 1395, during the attack by Tamerlane, the icon was solemnly transferred to Moscow and on this day Tamerlane retreated and left the territory of Muscovy. After this the image was returned to Vladimir, but in 1480 it was again taken to the great Moscow church of the Assumption, where it remained till 1918. The Greek name of this iconographic type – Eleus – can be translated literally as «showing mercy». In medieval Russia this type of iconography was called «Umilenie – Tender Affection», which corresponds more closely to the imagery: the Child’s cheek is tenderly pressed up against Our Lady’s face; he embraces her with his left hand, and Our Lady holds the Child with her right hand, leaning her head towards him. A characteristic feature of this iconography is that the left foot of the Child is bent in such a way that His heel is seen. The icon is drawn on two sides. On the obverse there is a depiction of the «Throne of the Second Coming (Еtimasia)». The painting on the obverse evokes controversy to this day: some date it to the 15th century, others to the 19th century.

from the Tretyakov Gallery.

The most Orthodox and revered icon in medieval Russia, «Our Lady of Vladimir» was brought from Constantinople in the early 12th century; it was destined to become the holy of holies of the Russian state. The icon was kept in Vyshgorod, near Kiev. But it became especially revere not in Kiev but in Vladimir, where the icon was sent in 1155 by Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky. The splendid white-stone church the Assumption of the Virgin was especially built to house the icon of «Our Lady of Vladimir». On 26 August (8 September in the New Style calendar) 1395, during the attack by Tamerlane, the icon was solemnly transferred to Moscow and on this day Tamerlane retreated and left the territory of Muscovy. After this the image was returned to Vladimir, but in 1480 it was again taken to the great Moscow church of the Assumption, where it remained till 1918. The Greek name of this iconographic type – Eleus – can be translated literally as «showing mercy». In medieval Russia this type of iconography was called «Umilenie – Tender Affection», which corresponds more closely to the imagery: the Child’s cheek is tenderly pressed up against Our Lady’s face; he embraces her with his left hand, and Our Lady holds the Child with her right hand, leaning her head towards him. A characteristic feature of this iconography is that the left foot of the Child is bent in such a way that His heel is seen. The icon is drawn on two sides. On the obverse there is a depiction of the «Throne of the Second Coming (Еtimasia)». The painting on the obverse evokes controversy to this day: some date it to the 15th century, others to the 19th century.
from the Tretyakov Gallery.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Poetry and the Self

Most people ignore most poetry
most poetry ignores most people
Adrian Mitchell
Another post from Johnthelutheran (where does he get them from?!?)
Is this another call to be true to yourself? Or, for a follower of Christ, and someone who believes that God's Spirit is real and active within their soul, then a call to be true to the work of the Creator within?

"Being true to oneself"

"If choosing one’s values is just some mysterious feel thing conducted in the isolated crucible of the disengaged self, it becomes little more than an emotional lucky dip, easily manipulated by forces outside the self that are not being critically examined. No wonder ‘being true to yourself’ has so little resistance to the power of advertising.
Which is why we need to remember our catechism (or at least the one I learned at my Convent school)
"Who made you?"  God made me
"Why did he make you?"  God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next
Nothing there about "being true to yourself" - it's ALL about being true to what God made you, as a unique and holy and loved individual.
Somewhere, I have got the tattered red paper catechism that we were all given, whether we were Catholic or not (I'm not) by the nuns, and which we studied in RE lessons. This has inspired me to go and look for it (but I will probably have forgotten about this inspiration before I get back upstairs - such is the frailty of human nature.)

Flashmob adoration of the host, Ascension Day Preston is article about it (back in 2009) and is the video

Wish I had been there....

wonder if we could do it here....

What an amazing summary of the Bible. Need to make a transcription of it to come back to...

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Madonna and Child

I'm starting a new category of "Pictures that I want to keep track of and not lose"

This picture comes from here:

It's not a blog that I follow, so someone else must have re-posted it.

I'm not skilled at reading pictures, or patient at stopping and looking at pictures. Sometimes I read someone else's explanation, meditation, call it what you will, and think - wow!

This one is easy to read - the Baby, totally focused on his Mother, snuggling into her neck, hand reaching for her. The Mother, head bent towards the Babe, right hand wrapped around him, and left hand somehow beckoning us closer.

Their expressions are tranquil, but is there a sadness in their eyes? In hers, certainly. I hope the babe is still innocent of his future. Let him be a little baby, and a carefree child, for as long as possible.

Late 13th c. Mosaic Icon.
@the Byzantine Museum of Athens

Friday, 17 May 2013

Liverpool Cathedral Night Light Labyrinth

These pictures were tweeted by Catherine Fox on 17th May 2013

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Nightlight Labyrinth at Liverpool Cathedral.
Pictures reproduced by permission of Catherine Fox

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Do you think that they are Real, Dangerous, Combustible, Naked Flame Candles in those bags? I hope so. How lovely to see the blur of children running and dancing through the flames, a vital contrast to the steady, thoughtful passage through the candles by the adults.

Would I have walked or danced through the labyrinth if I had been there?

Catherine Fox's tweets and photographs are the reason for suddenly put up three posts on labyrinths all in a row.

Here's the link to the cathedral website: and their picture.

I have copied and pasted their information below; as I guess it will disappear after tonight.

"Take a relaxing walk through a candle-lit labyrinth in the awesome surroundings of our Cathedral.

Labyrinths are an ancient symbol of the journey through life. They have been used for centuries in Cathedrals and other places as a creative tool for reflection. Many people of other faiths and no faith have found walking a labyrinth to be a surprising and wonderful experience.
This evening's labyrinth is testament to the creative spirit of Liverpool and its community. Musicians are joining forces to become 'Voices of the Labyrinth', singing songs from all around the world in unison and in harmony and include TJ Murphy, Choir of St Mary's Priory Church Warrington, singers from LJMU Wellbeing Choir and the Raucous Caucus Recovery Choir.
This event is a collaboration involving Mersey Care NHS Trust, Liverpool John Moores University, and the Liverpool Cathedral to celebrate Adult Learner's Week and Liverpool LightNight."

Labyrinth at Chichester Cathedral - Monday 6th May 2013

It was drawn on carpet tiles in the North Transept;

with a nice wooden finger labyrinth nearby,

useful information about labyrinths,

and take-away book marks of the four banners for the four apostles, their symbols and their elements taken from parts of the Piper Tapestry. This one is St Luke (winged ox, fire)

and the whole section enclosed by a living willow screen.

  I like the way the swirling willow branches echo the curvy design of the labyrinth.

National Labyrinth Day - First Saturday in May

Never knew that before; although when we were in Chichester Cathedral on Bank Holiday Monday 6th May 2013 there was a labyrinth, painted onto on carpet tiles, in the North Transept.

This seems to be the place to go for labyrinth hunters:

 Here's a picture from the site of the Chartres labyrinth that they give comprehensive instructions for on the site, and that you can download a drawing of.

They also seem to have all kinds of related resources - music, activities, pdfs, heaven knows what. Well, heaven probably does know what, come to think of it.

This "How to draw a labyrinth" gif comes from them too. It's more complex than the simple one I usually use.



Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Byzantine Tones

the website that I took the hymn of Kassiani from. Masses of information to go through at some time in the future.

Including a description of the tones in "western" terms.

samples and sheet music of the tones

Spy Wednesday and the Hymn of Kassiani

Spy Wednesday is the day before Maundy Thursday, so called because on this day Judas met with the Sanhedrin in order to betray Jesus.

It's also the day when Mary (sister of Martha and Lazarus, and therefore not necessarily a "fallen woman") washed Jesus' feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with precious ointment. 

Here's the link for the music sung by a man and a woman  using tone 8  using tone 4

Here's the link for the sheet music for the second youtube link

Here's the extract from Wikipedia

Eastern Christianity

In the Orthodox Church, the theme of Holy and Great Wednesday is the commemoration of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus before his Crucifixion and Burial; a second theme is the agreement to betray Jesus made by Judas Iscariot.
The day begins with the celebration of the Presanctified Liturgy on Tuesday afternoon. Later that evening, the Orthros (Matins) follows the special Holy Week format known as the Bridegroom Prayer. Towards the end of Orthros, the Hymn of Kassiani is sung. The hymn, (written in the 9th century by Kassia) tells of the woman who washed Christ's feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (Luke 7:36-50) Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

Russian icon of Saint Kassia holding a scroll with her hymn written on it.
O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gather into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."
The Byzantine musical composition expresses the poetry so strongly that it often leaves many people in a state of prayerful tears. The Hymn can last upwards of 25 minutes and is liturgically and musically a highpoint of the entire year.
On this day members of the church receive Holy Unction after receiving Holy Communion at the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evening.[9]
It is on account of the agreement made by Judas to betray Jesus on this day that Orthodox Christians fast on Wednesdays (as well as Fridays) throughout the year.