Canon Robert Wright, the Speaker’s Chaplain, led a prayer meeting yesterday for the Cornerstone Group of MPs. He took his text from the Gospel of Matthew (6:26, et seq.), about the lilies not having to clothe themselves and the birds in the sky not having to grow their own food:
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
So why worry? Think of today, not tomorrow, and put your faith in the kingdom of God.
The reading engendered a lively discussion amongst the group.
Christ’s words are much more than sublime poetry or a call for other-worldliness, or a call to trust in God. They are all these things and more.
One could say that to read and contemplate on them is enough; but one could say that about almost any Gospel reading, such is the power of these texts.
Christ’s poetry shows that religion – a word almost as misunderstood and abused as ‘love’ – need not be a dessicated set of rules. It should spring up naturally, he inspires us to reflect, from love and acceptance of the triune God.
This poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) speaks in a similar vein. Hopkins was much inspired by the countryside around St Beuno’s in north Wales, now a Jesuit-run retreat centre, in his day a seminary where he studied for the priesthood.
I have also found this landscape inspirational, particularly when combining its enjoyment with the practice of Ignatian spirituality (i.e. that of St Ignatius Loyola [ 1491-1556], the founder of the Society of Jesus or Jesuits]). Indeed, that is what Hopkins was doing when he wrote this lovely poem at St Beuno’s in the summer of 1877.
|GLORY be to God for dappled things—|
|For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;|
|For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;|
|Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;|
|Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;||
|And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.|
|All things counter, original, spare, strange;|
|Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)|
|With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;|
|He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:||