Tag: St John of the Cross

A glimpse of a moment of ‘Gift’

Gill Henwood. Photo of Green Hairstreak Butterfly. Cumbria.

My friend Gill Henwood has sent me this photo of a Green Hairstreak Butterfly. It was discovered on a track in cleared woodland fells between Coniston and Hawkshead in the Lake District last Saturday. In that part of the world it is a very rare find, Gill tells me.

Of the butterfly itself she says:

that it  is about 30mm wingspan, so half that when the wings are closed. Hence the impressionist close up photo with an iPhone 12 mini. This is adequate for reporting to Butterfly Conservation Cumbria or iRecord, and carrying a smart phone whilst dog walking means the opportunity can be captured- sometimes- if a tiny creature pauses long enough ( they often don’t!).

Amazing striped antennae and legs that were not visible with the naked eye. The ring-tailed lemur of butterflies!

In many cultures, the butterfly has a deep connection with souls.  For some, the butterfly’s spiritual meaning resonates with the Christian belief of Ascension (of Christ) and also to creativity, pulsating joy, transformation and spiritual re-birth or growth.
It is also a sign of beauty and a symbol of hope and endurance as it flies from flower to flower. Butterflies bring joy to a garden, a country path and, even round here at present to a building site a dusting of colour.

Gill says that what she is presenting us with in her image is not so much a portrait but

“a  glimpse of a moment of ‘gift’ in a sighting along the way. “. It’s an opportunity to share the exhilaration of the moment with those who can’t be up on the Cumbrian fells.”

In this period of time when so much has been taken from us and when we don’t yet understand what the ‘new normal’ is; when what we saw as important in our lives is being challenged and questioned, we need these moments of ‘gift.’ Nature has been working hard this year to show us something of ‘their world’.

David Hockney’s new book, written in collaboration with Martin Gayford, Spring cannot be cancelled’, tries to share that sense  of learning deeply from the things around us, particularly the things of Nature and creation.

It is perhaps ironic that at a time when we are threatening so much of creation with extinction, birds, animals, bees, butterflies and the creativity of plants are coming to our rescue. ‘Cheer up!’ they seem to say. ‘There is so much of value that you are missing and which you didn’t see as Important.”

Now perhaps we may, which is why we must always be on the lookout for those moments of gift to be enjoyed and through which we might  glimpse a different, better and more truthful life. A life of wonder, awe and inspiration. A life of breathtaking beauty and yet, a simpler life.

God gives us these glimpses of beauty, of the gift of His creative love.
As Gill suggests. “Enjoy the gift of the glimpse xx”

I am grateful for some words of St. John of the Cross who wrote which carry a profound truth…

God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty.

He can even do it to us!

[Mr G and Gill]

Big in the eyes of God

Photo of Tarn Hows and surrounding hills by Gill Henwood

Today, December 14th, is a special day. It’s the day the Church keeps the feast of St. John of the Cross.

Some years ago, towards the end of a visit to Spain, we arrived at Ubeda. It was a wet Sunday afternoon and the town was all but deserted. The one eating and drinking place was the only crowded place. I had gone there, however to see something very important.

We had started the Spanish journey by travelling from Madrid to Avila. There, my companion and I visited the shrine of St. Teresa of Avila. She has been a favourite saint of mine for a long time and I have tried to dig deep into her spirituality. There is something profoundly mystical about her and yet, also, an accessible ordinariness. Teresa tells it as it is! She also tells God what’s on her mind!

Her legacy, for which she was honoured as a Doctor (Teacher) of the Faith, is her teaching on prayer. Yet her writing, done usually on the hoof, had to be encouraged. She was busy at the time reforming the Carmelite order and founding new convents of what became known as the discalced (barefoot) order of the contemplative Carmelites. (when she wasn’t actually shouting at popes, nobles and, at times God!)

In all this activity she had a series of mentors, confessors and encouragers. The chief amonst these, and her very special friend was St John of the Cross. His friendship did so much to help her in guiding others and in leaving us the great spiritual treasure we still have today.

St. John of the Cross was, himself, a man of deep spirituality. His writings and, especially his spiritual poems, established him as a mystic who walked close to God and for whom God’s love was deeply personal. The power of God’s love to touch ALL hearts is expressed by John in something he truly believed. He said, Where there is no love put love in and you will find love. In people and in situations where love is lacking, put the love of God in and you will draw love out. John of the Cross saw this as one of the most important witnesses we can make for God.

Often misunderstood and persecuted, even imprisoned, he found strength from his deep relationship with God. He also found a spiritual home in Teresa’s discalced Carmelites which he joined.

Amongst his writings is ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’, ‘The Ascent of Mount Carmel’ and ‘Spiritual Canticle’. A good introduction to his life and spirituality is by E Allison Peers, available still from good bookshops.

Like Teresa he was made a Doctor of the Church.

That rainy afternoon in Ubeda, our knocking on the door of the museum/monastery was rewarded at precisely 4pm! (When siesta was over). We were led by a quiet but welcoming monk to the shrine of St. John of the Cross. A wonderfully profound moment at the end of our joureying in Spain. In my heart was the link between the beginning of that journey and its end, not least because these two saints, in so many ways, had hearts for God that beat as one. Teresa said of John: “I cannot be in the presence of John without being lifted up into the presence of God.” In each other, they found God’s friendship and company.

But let Teresa have the last word about him on this, his feast day. She said of him, ‘Though he is small in stature, he is Big in God’s eyes.’ What better thing could be said of anyone!

[Mr. G]

Another Lakeland Rainbow

My friend Gill Henwood, who wrote about Tarn Hows and created the poem has sent me another photo she took of a rainbow over the Lakeland fells.

A reminder to us in these difficult winter days when there is so much heartache and anguish around that there is always a rainbow. God is constantly walking through the darkness and showing us the promise of light and that, indeed, all this shall pass. Or as St. John of the Cross puts it so much better:

“God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty.”                 

Nowhere is this more true than in the Christmas Incarnation of Jesus, the light and Saviour of the world. He is the rainbow bringing a new perspective and promise of what is to come. Jesus is God’s glance of love pushing back the darkness and pointing our hearts to a new beauty.

Thank you Gill for this reminder of God’s love and care for us.

Mr. G