Once in a while, a real beautiful gem sticks out. In today's post, she links to an interview with the retired (Anglican) Dean of Westminster Abbey, Michael Mayne, who is dying of the cancer of the jaw. It is a deeply moving piece, and even at that distance, the radiant beauty and deep faith of this clergyman shine powerfully through.
But, in the end, the arts are perhaps of most spiritual significance to him. While speaking of his idea of God, “a God of love, but never an imposing love. It is so important to understand what freedom means in any loving relationship”, he cites Love, by George Herbert, and relates how a few weeks earlier he stood with his friend, the novelist Vikram Seth, outside Herbert’s house, which Seth has bought and renovated.Ms. Gledhill also links to a sermon given by Rev. Mayne in 2004 (Microsoft Word), entitled the Enduring Melody (which is also the title if his forthcoming book), where he develops the theme of faith as the enduring melody, the cantus firmus around which, in counterpoint, life ebbs and grows.
“I asked him to read Love and Vikram said, ‘I don’t need to’ and recited it by heart. That’s my idea of the spiritual: Vikram, brought up in the Hindu faith, loving this great Christian poem.”
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, and a little later, when he shows them how he wants to be remembered, he gives them a cantus firmus which is universal and timeless. He gives them the Lord's Prayer and the Eucharist. In the Lord's Prayer he gives them a form of words which will form a deep bond of unity between them and among all Christians ever after - a kind of signature tune, if you like; and it contains all we will ever need to express our trusting relationship with God and our dependence on him. And in the eucharist he spells out the four actions of taking, giving thanks, breaking and blessing which have been the four marks of his life, a cantus firmus for all who follow him and are prepared for their lives to be shaped in this same pattern. The pattern of a life taken and offered back to God, a life lived thankfully, a life broken and shared in the costly service of others.I was immediately reminded of Henri Nouwen's "Life of the Beloved". In the morning, I must share this with dad. (And, I should add: just last week I made some derisory noises about the Anglican communion, motivated, in part, by irritation. As a friend gently reminded me, and as witnesses such as these clearly demonstrate, there is much to give thanks for in the lives of our "separated brethren.")
Ms. Gledhill also provides some delightful quotes from Peter Plymley's Letters, written by an early 19th century Anglican cleric who fought for Catholic emancipation. The quotes she provides (one has a "Hath not a Jew eyes?" quality about it) is certainly apposite and thought-provoking for today. She then lists six books by clergy that she recommends. And though it's not a book, per se, I would suggest adding the poems of Gerald Manley Hopkins, SJ.
Here's George Herbert's, Love.
Oh sweet Lord, so much wonderful stuff to read!