Pause for Thought Feb 2011

One of the things that happen to you if you work in the Church of England for any length of time is that you get to know a large number of people who go on to become Archdeacons or Bishops or write books - one Bishop once commented to me that it was a bit like going up and down on an escalator as you kept passing people you knew! Knowing which way he was going, I spent considerable time wondering whether I was on the other courseway!!

However, one person who I seem to pass often, now only in his writing, is Melvyn Matthews who was the Warden at the Ammerdown Ecumenical Retreat Centre in Somerset when I first came to know him and later became a Canon of Wells Cathedral where he was responsible for the education and spirituality work there as well as the Ministry of Welcome. He is now retired, but continues to write and I have been particularly taken by his writing about a Gregorian prayer which he used at Matins in the quire of Wells Cathedral where he says of that place : ‘it is also intimate enough to enable worshippers to feel held in the hand of God as they sit and pray in the medieval stalls as people have done for the last nine hundred years.’ I believe that you can feel something like this in the Lady Chapel in Barnack Church.

The prayer reads:
‘O God, who hast folded back the mantle of the night to clothe us in the golden glory of the day, chase from our hearts all gloomy thoughts, and make us glad with the brightness of hope that we may effectively aspire to unwon virtues, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
Matthews writes that so much of the Christian faith is about light; the light of morning streaming in symbolizes the light of Christ streaming in to dispel fear and sin and guilt. The Christian faith is about the joy of newness and hope, of knowing and believing that life is entirely a gift from God and being thankful that this is the case. He continues:

‘My own response to this prayer is to resolve to allow that joy to permeate my encounter with other people. They, too, are a gift to me, whoever they are and whatever they may bring, however, at times, unwelcome. So as people come to me or as I approach them I try to see them new, to see them as if with the light of God and so bringing some new light to me. This is difficult and not always successful. My moods colour the encounter as much as their condition, but the faith we have is that these moods are not the final truth about ourselves. The final truth id tat Christ’s light inhabits us and our world. The question and the challenge is whether we choose that light and life or not’.

Why not creep into the Chapel of your church early one morning or sit quietly in your home and pray this prayer – I am sure you will find that it will bring real light into a dull February day.


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