My friend Joyce Smith has sent me another picture tweet of a Gannet in flight. The caption is by Henry David Thoreau. Joyce writes: Dear Friends, This graceful gannet witnesses to beauty in our present lives as well as to our future hope. With my love and prayers, God bless, Joyce
I was inspired by the photo to try and capture my feelings in a poem.
All is Gift.
Gannet soars, taking a path between earth and heaven. Grace in flight buoyed up by the whisper of God’s breath A joyful beauty here.
She reminds us of God’s creative love fashioning the world spreading signs and reflections of His heaven – brooding under, over and within Creation. Entrusting this message not to us but to a creature of His artistry. The gentle flap of her wing carries her through clouds, across an ever-moving sky, from time to time she drops to kiss an azure sea, beak dipping foaming wave forming, where love breaks.
Gannet carries a gift from God, A message from His heart ; “Enjoy the freedom of grace-filled life. I glide around you revealing the beauty above, below and within you for I am always there.”
Look up and see, look down and feel. Look within and breathe. Live for a while in true harmony with all that I have made. But know, (and here Gannet flies away to spread her wings of beauty), that all is gift.
St Edmund is closely connected with Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
In 1095 an Abbey was built as the centre of worship and devotion and remained a primary witness to God inspired by St. Edmund himself. Here his remains were venerated until Henry VIII dissolved the monastery, when Edmund’s remains were taken to France. They now rest in a chapel in Arundel Castle.
Edmund’s story, however, leads us to Hunstanton in Norfolk. When King Aethelweard of East Anglia died in AD855 he was the last of the Royal House of East Anglia, so his subjects sent word to their homeland of Angeln for a successor. A distant cousin named Edmund arrived, at what is now known as St. Edmunds Point in Hunstanton, to claim his kingdom. Since then Hunstanton has had a long and close association with St Edmund.
The story goes that Edmund later entered into battle against the Vikings, led by Ivarr the Boneless. The two armies fought somewhere near Diss. Edmund’s forces were defeated. The Vikings demanded that Edmund renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. When he refused they were merciless with him. They tortured him and eventually tied him to a tree where the archers used him as target practice. Finally, they beheaded him.
This is where the wolf comes into the story.
It is said that the Vikings discarded his head in the woodlands. Edmund’s followers later recovered his body but the head was missing. Eventually they found it, guarded by a wolf which attracted the followers with his cry. Edmund’s head lay between its paws safe and untouched by all the forest animals.
So the wolf entered into the folk lore of St. Edmund.
I discovered this on a recent visit to Hunstanton were I came across the vestiges of a ruined chapel dedicated to him. There is very little left of that chapel but nearby is a statue of a wolf (see photo above), a reminder of the story and of how, quite often, the animal kingdom is kinder to holy men and women than humans are.
Eternal God, whose servant Edmund kept faith to the end, both with you and with his people, and glorified you by his death: grant us such steadfastness of faith that, with the noble army of martyrs, we may come to enjoy the fullness of the resurrection life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
A group of us at my church recently shared in a Quiet Day led by our Archdeacon Vanessa.
Her addresses were about different aspects of Prayer – Prayer and silence; Prayer and Place; Prayer and Time; Prayer and the Senses.
Each one has its own way of inspiring and creating reflection. We were encouraged to engage with the gift of silence to ourselves, each other, and especially to God. We were also encouraged to receive the Gift of prayer to us from God and seek the Holy Spirit at work within us. In a beautiful phrase we were to sense ‘God speaking to God from within.’
Looking at Prayer and Place, Vanessa prompted us to think of the places where God has been easily found. She herself, spoke to us of Lastingham in the Cleveland Hills in North Yorkshire. Here the Saxon monk Cedd, pupil of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, set up a monastery. This same Cedd brought the Gospel to Essex, to Bradwell which was consecrated by his presence and his prayer.
I haven’t been to Lastingham for many years but Vanessa opened up the memory and the experience within me. Below is the poem that I felt encouraged to write.
With it is a poem by Piers who was at the Quiet Day. Inspired, this time by the Abbey of Bec Hellouin in Normandy. Bec in the past supplied us with three Archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc, Anselm and Theobald. Bec still has a special relationship with Canterbury Cathedral. Today, only the tower remains of the Norman Abbey but a community of monks live in buildings near the tower. A sister community of nuns live in a convent a short distance away and on Sundays and Feast Days, the monks and nuns worship together. The serene and beautiful worship in their chapel inspired the first of the poems.
Both locations express the essence of what Vanessa spoke of to us. Thin places where heaven touches earth and God feels very near.
l’Abbaye du Bec
In my mind’s eye, I return: cream quietness… light bathing ordered stone, the scent of sung prayer hanging low.
Piers Northam 10 July 2021
I come to this place, deep in the hills, where silence and conversation meld into stillness.
God is here, his sanctuary a stone rainbow over the seeker after meaning.
What am I looking for in this place, where the one who drew others to their knees, poured out his soul?
I sense and seek the company of the one who prayed here first, in the shadows of sweeping arches, pillars and faint light.
Seemingly impermeable rock – steeped in suffering and joy; pain and perfection; faltering hope and confident determination – enfolds me as I kneel with Cedd:
exhaling uncertainty… …inhaling God’s blessing and his love.
Geoffrey Connor 10 July 2021
Photos: The Apse Chapel Pennant Melangell Church Mr.G Abbey Church Bec Hellouin Piers Northam Crypt, Lastingham Church. Parish of Lastingham
Peacock Butterfly photographed by Lynn Hurry in Latton Vicarage Garden
The other day a Peacock Butterfly visited the garden at Latton Vicarage and my friend Lynn, the Vicar, took this photo. She sent it to me with the suggestion that it might inspire me. So I have written a poem.
The Peacock Butterfly is a familiar sight in gardens across the British Isles and is unmistakable, with quite spectacular eyes on the upperside of the hindwings that give this butterfly its name. Despite being a common sight there is a breathtaking beauty about this butterfly which gave me the inspiration for the poem
Peacock butterfly … Breathtaking
A beautiful sunny afternoon in heaven. God rested, stretched, relaxed; but the creator of everything cannot be still. an idea formed; a longing to make something beautiful. When you are full of love it is no chore to create.
He would paint, brushing into life something stunning, Breathtaking! His canvas invitingly empty God dipped the brush of his imagination, stretched out his hand. Intricate sparkling colours flowed from his fingers. What figment of his palette did He conjure up? Slow formation of something crazy.
He fashioned me, a butterfly adorned with Peacock colours. I am painted with the eye of God, a reflection of His love for making. Crafted by God, every act of creativity births new loveliness into the world