to help you discover the God you already know

Author: Henry Morgan (Page 1 of 10)

Clemency Burton-Hill

I quoted Clemency Burton-Hill from her excellent book ‘Another Year of Wonder’ in a recent post entitled ‘Year of Wonder’ [the title of her previous book]. In it I quoted some lovely words of hers for the beginning of the year. Both her books offer a piece of classical music, together with a short introduction, for every day of the year. For me they’ve become treasured spiritual resources. So much so that I have to quote her again. Recently she introduced a piece of music in the following way:

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Our Temptations

We are each called to incarnate some aspect[s] of God in our life, that is our calling, our vocation. It will be what brings us fully alive as a son or daughter of God.  Moreover whatever we incarnate of God, being ‘of God’, will be eternal.  It will be at least part of what of us exists beyond death.

Often we will be able to identify the moment when we recognised this vocation, knew what it is that we’re called to incarnate. Jesus had one such a moment at, or just after, His baptism by John in the river Jordan.

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Spiritual Conversations

I’ve been blessed with two very good spiritual directors over the years, but I struggled when the last one died. It was probably not a bad idea to have a break for a while, but finding a new one, someone who would encourage, stimulate and challenge me spiritually, proved depressingly difficult.  Then, one evening, sitting smoking my pipe in my shed I was listening to a podcast in which the American poet Mary Oliver was being interviewed. I was gripped, listening to Mary talk about her life & her poetry. ‘That’s what I’m looking for” I thought “I’m looking for spiritual conversations not a spiritual director.”

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In the Beginning

I’ve become a grateful fan of Clemency Burton-Hill and her book ‘Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Everyday’ ever since I bought a copy several years ago. In it she offers a piece of music for every day of the year, and a brief commentary that helps to open up the piece chosen. Linked with her playlist on Spotify, its been an important part of my daily prayer ever since, introducing me to music much of which was not familiar to me. God speaks powerfully through music.

Imagine then, my delight with the publication of a second volume this year ‘Another Year of Wonder’ which I eagerly acquired. Her choice for January 1st was a piece by J.S. Bach and in her commentary she writes:

“What a thing it is, [at the beginning of the year] to embark on an entire new journey around the sun. Simultaneously the most normal and predictable thing in the world, yet, if you really think about it, kind of a miracle”.  

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Christmas is coming

The culmination of Advent with the coming of Christmas calls us once again to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

John’s Gospel talks of Jesus existing with God from the beginning, before being incarnated as a human being, and of then returning to be with God after His death & resurrection.

This is the pattern not only for Jesus but for every human being. 

We each come from God and at our birth enter into this world carrying with us ‘memories ‘ of the Home whence we came.

We are each called, as Jesus was, to incarnate some aspect[s]of God into our world: it is our vocation, our calling. It’s almost certainly not something overtly religious, and it may be something you consider quite ordinary, but its what, deep down, you know you are meant to do and become, and it is what brings you fully alive.

There needs to be discernment to avoid the mis-use of our vocation. We will find ourselves tempted to do so as Jesus was.

Whatever we incarnate of God, being ‘of God’,must therefore transcend death. It is what we take back Home to God, as gift, when we die.

Its not enough simply to celebrate God’s incarnation in Jesus this Christmas. As Evelyn Underhill wrote “The Eternal Birth must take place in you.” The challenge is to be open to God incarnating Godself in our own lives, in whatever particular way we are called to.

An Advent Tale

A small village nestled high up in the mountains had developed over the centuries a series of traditions by which they marked Advent every year.

All the men in the village used to dress up as shepherds and bring symbols of their trades to the little village church, as gifts for the Christ-child. The gifts were then distributed beyond the village, to people in need.

Similarly all the women dressed up as midwives and brought gifts to the church, appropriate for a young child, which were distributed in the same way.

All the young people, on finishing their education set out on a journey, as if following a star, to places well beyond the village to learn of different cultures, and they returned bringing new wisdom.

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The Raising of Jesus

I marked Easter this year by mulling on the Resurrection stories in the Gospels, and found myself led from those in John’s Gospel to John’s account of the raising of Lazarus, where I was struck by both the similarities and the differences between the stories of Jesus’ Resurrection and that of Lazarus.

In the story of Lazarus, Martha and Mary arrive at their brothers tomb with a crowd of witnesses. Lazarus’ body has been there for four days. Jesus commands that the stone in front of Lazarus’ tomb be taken away. Martha is concerned at the probable stench from Lazarus’s decomposing body, but nevertheless the stone is removed. Jesus commands Lazarus to “come out” and he does, still wrapped in his grave clothes.  Jesus tells the onlookers to “Loose him, let him go,”  and as a result many of them place their faith in Jesus. The story says nothing more of Lazarus save that later when Mary & Martha give a supper at home in honour of Jesus [not Lazarus!], their brother Lazarus is amongst the guests.  Throughout the story the focus is on Jesus not Lazarus.

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Top down or bottom up

I was talking with a friend recently, and he mentioned the vision that Julian of Norwich had in which she saw God as a Lord and human beings as the Lord’s servants.  I had to admit that while I understand that image of God in my head it doesn’t engage with either my heart or my soul, and it’s therefore not an image that has ever spoken to me. Obviously it spoke to Julian through her vision, and continues to speak to some today, so I found myself pondering why it doesn’t to me?

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