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The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.
based on a stained glass window at © Taizé

My soul magnifies the Lord.

A meditation on the Visitation of The Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth. Mother of John the Baptist, with special reflection on the ‘Magnificat’. Today, 31st May, is kept by the Church as the festival of the Visitation.
This meditation, in the words of St Elizabth, is by my dear friend Joyce Smith who is doubtless singing the Magnificat in heaven.

We were both blooming
in the joy of our pregnancies.
I was carrying the forerunner,
and Mary carried the Anointed One.

We  had so much to share,
we were  both so excited,
and yet fearful at the same time.
Yet, in all the ups and downs
Mary couldn’t keep from singing.

She sang of the greatness of the Lord;
that he had chosen her to bear his Son,
who would change the world;

This would be no empty political promise,
of levelling up and giving out
meagre benefits.

Mary’s Son,
God’s Son,
really would reach out
to everyone;
seeking justice
and fairness for all.
He would give
priority to the poorest and weakest;
standing on the edge
with the powerless
and disenfranchised.

Mary, my cousin,
sang her song,
which will stand
for all generations.

Who will sing it now?
Who will listen?
Who will act?

[Joyce Smith]

Sheltering sheep

I have received this stunning photo from my friend Gill Henwood and it brought much cheer so I am sharing it with you. The comments are hers.

“Ewes and lambs in the shade of a lime tree clump in old parkland, near Hawkshead, Cumbria.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

This is their favourite shelter when the strong Maytime sun shines. Though it’s cloudy at the moment, it’s warm and humid as the clouds rise and sun will break through. Too hot for woolly coats! 

All around the lambs are bleating and ewes replying in their deeper alto. The semi-independent lambs gambol together and get separated from their mothers. A great baa-ing goes on if they can’t find each other. Some adventurous lambs escape under fences – leading to a great bleating as their mothers cannot follow.
There must be a parable there: the good shepherd/ess who seeks out the lost sheep, of course.

Birdsong provides the mood music, with the cuckoo joining in around the vale.

A joyous morning.

Another view

Two ewes with single lambs in a shady gateway 
But the lone lamb is over the fence (not a Swaledale)…

[Gill Henwood]

The Bee, a messenger of love

Today is World Bee Day

St John Chrysostom,  an important early saint of the Church, said of Bees
The bee is more honoured than other animals, not because she labours,
but because she labours for others.

We all depend on the survival of bees.
Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities. Pollination is, however, a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity.
To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day. The goal is to strengthen measures aimed at protecting bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger in developing countries. We all depend on pollinators and it is, therefore, crucial to monitor their decline and halt the loss of biodiversity. Bees and other pollinators are fundamental for the health of ecosystems and food security. They help maintain biodiversity and ensure the production of nutritious food. However, intensive monoculture production and improper use of pesticides pose serious threats to pollinators by reducing their access to food and nesting sites, exposing them to harmful chemicals, and weakening their immune systems.  (Source United Nations)

Did you know ?
Bees already work under considerable difficulty even before we get involved!

According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground.It’s something to do with its body mass in relation to its wing span. It’s all been tested out, using the science of aerodynamics and a wind tunnel.The Bumble Bee is, however, blissfully ignorant of this scientific fact and, possessing considerable determination, and refusing to accept a low expectation of its capabilities, it not only does fly, but it makes a little honey too!

Perhaps we can bear that in mind when we are faced with difficulties about things we can or can’t do. Even more important when others tell us what we can’t do. Think of the bee and don’t let others put you down.

The spirituality of bees includes working alongside others in the hive as a team but, there is a co-operation of a different kind. It is a lesson in working together in the making of honey. This reflection is by Kahil Gibran  in his famous book, The Prophet.

And now you ask in your heart,
“How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy…
… be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.

God is pleased when we work together for the common good and, as Kahil Gibran points out, we can learn much from the bees and the flowers.

A prayer (part of a prayer liturgy by Douglas Kaine (from Every moment is holy)

God, we thank you too for the small comedy of the creatures
for the humour of their constant severity,
for the buzz and the bumbling of bees in flight,
for the sight of bees bending
slender stalks to harvest in the blooms,
their feet shod in bristling boots of gold,
their backs fuzzed with bright yellow dust
that is the colour of joy made visible.

[Mr G]

I have seen bluebells in a wood.

Bluebells at Bleasdale. Helen Smith

In olden days, Rogationtide was a time when Christians ‘beat the bounds’.  It was much more popular in rural areas and it consisted of a walk around the parish boundary with pauses for prayer.  In some places, wooden crosses were erected as the procession moved round the boundary of the parish.  This harks back to Celtic times when the placing of crosses were a symbolic act of re-claiming the land for Christ.
It was also a fun thing to do. 

I have a very happy memory of walking, not so much around Parish Boundaries but right through a middle path which connected two neighbouring parishes through a wood.
Members of the congregations set off towards each other to meet up in a woodland chapel used by the nearby Scout Camp. A gentle stream flowed through the wood and the sun shone brightly that afternoon.

What I particularly remember was the carpet of bluebells, freshly opened. They brought a special magic to the day. Fancifully, I think of them as God’s late-spring waymarks guiding us away from the darkness of our world and showing us beauty. They became our guide towards the joy of Creation.

I was recently given a poem about bluebells, written by a friend, Nan Northam, in 1he 1930’s. She would have been about 15 at the time.
Here it is for you to enjoy. [Mr G]


I have seen bluebells in a wood, close blown:
fumed blue – like wood smoke, bluer grown.
And I have watched them move their bells to ring
blue changes in the joyous peals of Spring.

Blue changes, with a wistful note as though
the swift, blue Bird of Happiness skimmed low
to whisper in each upturned, listening ear
and then, with upward, curving sweep and dear
quick flash of blue wings, fled into the dim
dissolving azure of the world’s far rim;
his music lingering air-borne in the breeze
in echoes through blue shadows ’neath the trees.

We too can glimpse his swiftly passing flight,
we too must watch him sadly out of sight.

Nan Shaw(later,Northam)