Thursday, May 31, 2007

Emergent, am I?

Nancy, over at Along the Way, has this fascinating link to a Theological Worldview quiz.

Like her, I turned out to be an Emergent / Postmodern! Only slight problem is, I'm 18% fundamentalist, which is a bit of a shock, I must say...

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern, You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal




Reformed Evangelical


Modern Liberal




What's your theological worldview?
created with

I know I ought to know the man in the picture, Nancy, only my mind's gone blank. Funny thing is, I'm bald and grey bearded, too... If this is an essential qualification for male emergent / postmoderns, what is the equivalent requirement for females???

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The prayers of the Saints...

"Lady, when on that night I left the Island that was once your England, your love went with me, although I could not know it, and could not make myself aware of it. It was your love, your intercession for me before God that was preparing the seas before my ship, laying open the way for me to another country. I was not sure where I was going and I could not see what I would do when I got to New York. But you saw further and clearer than I and you opened the seas before my ship whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing for me to be my rescue and my shelter and my home. And when I thought there was no God and no love and no mercy, you were leading me all the while into the midst of His love and His mercy and taking me, without my knowing anything about it, to the house that would hide me in the secret of His Face."

Thomas Merton. The Seven Storey Mountain. New York: Harcourt, Brace: pp. 129-130.

However we understand the way this happens, each of us is so much more dependent than we know on the prayers of others. Our ontological status, if you like, as members of the Body of Christ is conditioned by the love and longing of other members, whether alive and known to us, or long since present with our Lord in glory - that "cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12:1.

I know very well just how much of my own path to "a place I had never dreamed of," my very life in fact, has depended upon others, some of whom I know and might speak of one day, and some I know I'll meet one day with delighted astonishment, but whom I have no inkling here on earth...

Thanks be to God for their faithfulness, when mine has so often failed...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bank Holiday

Strange feeling, it being a bank holiday, somehow. Everything has gone on hold, and even the weather is caught between the chilly rain that has poured without a break for the last 36 hours, and the clear spring sunshine that preceded it. Ah - it was looking over my shoulder, and has decided to rain again...

Today somehow feels like a kind of an examen day, but in a gentle, unthreatening, understanding way. All the colours are soft, not muted but, I don't know, harmonious in some sense. God's hand is light, full of grace...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Archbishop Ndungane's speech (link)

If you read one post today, read this one, at Grandmere Mimi's. Especially if you are prone to talk about what "the African Bishops" believe!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My brother's keeper

"The person is defined in terms of freedom, hence in terms of responsibility also: responsibility to other persons, responsibility for other persons. To put it in concrete terms, the Christian is not only one who seeks the expansion and development of his own individuality and the satisfaction of his most legitimate natural needs but one who recognizes himself responsible for the good of others, for their own temporal fulfilment, and ultimately for their eternal salvation. Hence, the Christian person reaches maturity with the realization that each one of us is indeed his "brother's keeper," and that if men are suffering and dying in Asia or Africa, other men in Europe and America are summoned to self-judgement before the bar of conscience to see whether, in fact, some choice or neglect on their own part has had a part in this suffering and this dying, which otherwise may seem so strange and remote. For today the whole world is bound tightly together by economic, cultural and sociological ties which make us all, to some extent, responsible for what happens to others on the far side of the earth. Man is now not only a social being; his social nature transcends national and regional limits, and whether we like it or not, we must think in terms of one human family, one world."

Thomas Merton. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979: 152-153

This is so central to being a Christian, it seems to me. With the current attention to global warming, and other ecological factors, what we have known spiritually for so many centuries is becoming unarguable scientific fact. In fact it rather amuses me, in a grim kind of a way very often, how, as science grows ever more sophisticated it proves, rather than disproving, things that had been known spiritually for long years before the idea of "science" as a discipline in itself ever came to be!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

St. Rita of Cascia

St. Rita of Cascia

Like Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rita of Cascia was a wife, mother, widow and member of a religious community. Her holiness was reflected in each phase of her life.

Born at Roccaporena in central Italy, Rita wanted to become a nun but was pressured at a young age into marrying a harsh and cruel man. During her 18-year marriage, she bore and raised two sons. After her husband was killed in a brawl and her sons had died, Rita tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia. Unsuccessful at first because she was a widow, Rita eventually succeeded.

Over the years, her austerity, prayerfulness and charity became legendary. When she developed wounds on her forehead, people quickly associated them with the wounds from Christ's crown of thorns. She meditated frequently on Christ's passion. Her care for the sick nuns was especially loving. She also counselled lay people who came to her monastery.

Beatified in 1626, Rita was not canonized until 1900. She has acquired the reputation, together with St. Jude, as a saint of impossible cases. Many people visit her tomb each year.

I love people like St Rita, who came up against seemingly impossible odds, and just got on with it. It is so encouraging to think of her when things seem to be just wrong, when it is so easy to imagine an ideal world in which to live out our calling, a world so different from the one in which we seem trapped by some malignity of fate. But that world does not exist. An "If only" approach to holiness never quite gets underway, never produces the fruit that God longs for in us, and that we know, somewhere deep down, is the only thing that will ever finally satisfy us.

Rita became holy because she made choices that reflected her Baptism and her growth as a disciple of Jesus. Her overarching, lifelong choice was to cooperate generously with God's grace, but many small choices were needed to make that happen; and few of those choices seem to have made in ideal circumstances - not even when Rita had become an Augustinian nun...

This account of her life is derived from the entry at Saint of the Day

Monday, May 21, 2007

Abject blogospheric apologies...!

Poking around on Technorati, I discovered that way back last August Charles of New Haven tagged me for a book meme. Brother Charles I'm so sorry - I missed your post!

Anyway, being such an absent-minded procrastinator, I have to believe in better late than never; so, here's my reply (though as this is such ancient news, I'll forbear from tagging anyone else!)

1. One book that changed my life

Oh this has to be Per Olof Sjogren's The Jesus Prayer. Back in 1978 Fr Francis Horner SSM introduced me to this wonderful little book, and I've never been quite the same since!

2. One book that you've read more than once.

Other than the above? Well, loads. I'm an avid re-reader, but looking at my shelf I can see that one of the tattiest is Richard Foster's Money Sex & Power. Terrific book - the classical monastic disciplines of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience re-applied to contemporary out-of-cloister life. Should be required reading for the Third Order!

3. A desert island book.

This is hard, but I guess I'd have to go along with Charles on this, and (assuming, like in Desert Island Discs, I already have a Bible) I'd have to take my TSSF Manual, just in order to keep sane with the daily Office.

4. One book that made you laugh.

I'm kind of torn here between James Herriot and Phil Rickman. I think I'll have Midwinter of the Spirit, not because the plot's remotely funny (it's usually shelved under Horror...) but because I keep laughing either with glee at the utterly irresistible character of Revd. Merrily Watkins, Diocesan Exorcist, or with delighted recognition of my old stomping ground, the Herefordshire hinterland.

5. One book that made you cry.

Annie Dillard makes me cry more tears per chapter than anyone else I know. Which one? Oh, honestly. Only one? Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for sheer terror and celebration. Try this for size:

"I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am ageing and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down..."

6. One book you wish you had written.

Rowan Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes. Just glorious! See a couple of posts back... What a man to have as an Archbishop. For all the brickbats flying around the poor man's head, I feel very safe in that particular pair of hands.

7. One book you wish had never been written.

Mercifully, it's long out of print, but Arnold Lunn and Garth Lean, The Cult of Softness. I don't know if I ought even to mention it, in case some religious-right hard man decides to reprint it, with a told-you-so foreword.

8. One book you are currently reading.

To make up for the fact that I'm not going to do the final question (tagging people) I'll have two here, I think! Leslie J Francis, Church Watch - Christianity in the Countryside (quite as scary as any Phil Rickman ;-) and Rowan Clare Williams' beautiful little study of the Franciscan life, A Condition of Complete Simplicity. I guess I could have put this one down under question 2, since this'll be the third or fourth time I've read it.

9. One book you've been meaning to read.

I toyed with the idea of listing one or more of the great spiritual classics I've been meaning to get around to one day before it's too late, but actually I'll be honest. I really want to read The Ambient Century: from Mahler to Moby - the Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age by Mark Prendergast. Looks just up my street!

And that's that I think. Phew! Fascinating exercise. I only wish, Charles, that I'd done it when you tagged me... once again, sorry for the inattention!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Thinking about The Mercy Site

I've been thinking about The Mercy Site. It's been around a while, in Web terms, probably nearly seven years now. While it is still attracting a share of visitors, and while it is still hosted for free by the remarkably steadfast Milestonenet people, who seem to tolerate its consuming (according to Alexa) some 90-odd% of their traffic, I've been wondering.

I've been watching the steady flowering of what some people call Web 2.0 - online applications like Blogger, Netvibes, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, not to mention all the Flickr, eBay, thingies there are around. I've also been thoroughly enjoying the experience of keeping this blog. Not the least important things about that are the extraordinary ease of updating stuff with this Whizzy-WYG blog editor they provide, compared with even the simple, simple HTML of The Mercy Site; and the possibilities raised by the collaborative nature of comments.

I've also noticed one or two odd things in the blogosphere recently: things that aren't blogs per se, but aren't quite old school websites either. This tendency appears among experimental musicians, I find: the EMC Blog would be a fair example. Blog novels would be another example, but I'll let you Google those for yourself. There's some weird stuff out there: don't say I didn't warn you... Contrariwise, I've been impressed with sites like A Church Near You, which incorporate blog-like elements, with preformatted pages which can be modified using some kind of online editor application.

A blog-site (or site-blog) like that would be flexible and responsive, could be almost an online extension of what one was thinking about at the time, and could have a degree of collaborative input through (moderated) comments. It would be a separate entity to The Mercy Blog, and would borrow the blog novel idea of posts-as-chapters. It would, in other words, be an online, continually evolving - or perpetual Beta, for you Web 2.0 geeks - book about prayer.

I could give it a try - some of the best bits from The Mercy Site would provide a framework, and the endless generosity of Blogger a platform...

If any of you folks reading this have any thoughts, do post a comment!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

St. Theophilus of Corte... and Rowan Williams

St. Theophilus of Corte, 1676-1740

I love this guy - more and more God seems to be bringing people like this to my attention. I think he may be trying to tell me something...

Anyway, the following account of his life is derived from the entry at Saint of the Day:

If we expect saints to do marvellous things continually and to leave us many memorable quotes, we are bound to be disappointed with St. Theophilus. The mystery of God's grace in a person's life, however, has a beauty all its own.

Theophilus was born in Corsica of rich and noble parents. As a young man he entered the Franciscans and soon showed his love for solitude and prayer. After admirably completing his studies, he was ordained and assigned to a retreat house near Subiaco. Inspired by the austere life of the Franciscans there, he founded other such houses in Corsica and Tuscany. Over the years, he became famous for his preaching as well as his missionary efforts.

Though he was always somewhat sickly, Theophilus generously served the needs of God's people in the confessional, in the sickroom and at the graveside. Worn out by his labours, he died on June 17, 1740. He was canonized in 1930.

There is something in the lives of all those we remember as saints that prompts them to find ever more selfless ways of responding to God's grace. As time went on, Theophilus gave more and more single hearted service to God and to God's sons and daughters. Studying the lives of the saints will make no sense unless we are thus drawn to live as generously as they did. Their holiness can never substitute for our own.

Francis used to say, "Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress" (1 Celano, #193).

Thinking about St Theophilus, and about Francis' remark, reminds me strongly of what I've been reading in Rowan Williams' wonderful little book Silence and Honey Cakes, where he speaks of the Desert Fathers' and Mothers' insistence on what they called nepsis, watchfulness. The same idea seems to be present there: our attentive awareness of ourselves, necessarily of our own sinfulness, turns us not inwards, but towards Christ and towards our sisters and brothers, whom we love with an ever-increasing openness and solidarity.

++Rowan has a passage I simply can't resist quoting in full:

"What is hard for us to grasp is that they [the desert nuns and monks] know with utter seriousness the cost to them of their sin and selfishness and vanity, yet know that God will heal and accept. That they know the latter doesn't in any way diminish the intensity with which they know the former; and their knowledge of the former is what gives them their almost shocking tenderness towards other sinners."

"Almost shocking tenderness..." Wouldn't that do as well for a description of our Lord's attitude to the sinners he encountered during his years on earth? (And my heart tells me that if it was true then, it is even more true now.)

If only we could truly live like that! Of course it wouldn't make us popular among the self-righteous, any more than it did for Jesus, but it would make possible what Rowan Williams calls "becoming a means of reconciliation and healing" for our neighbour - and that surely is what every one of us is called to do, one way or another...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ascension Day!

Wonderful Ascension Day Eucharist over at Holy Trinity, West Lulworth this evening - Bob the Rural Dean took the service, assisted by our own brand new, freshly licensed Priest-in-Charge, Rhona! She may read this, so I shan't embarrass her by saying what a blessing she's going to be, and what an answer to prayer she is...

We sang (well, the choir sang, and the rest of us tried valiantly to follow in the printed music) a beautiful setting, The Lulworth Mass, written specially for the church by Derek Bourgeois. Really a glorious setting - but elementary it is not, Dr Watson.

Coming back through West and then East Lulworth it struck me yet again what pleasant places our boundary lines have fallen in, to mangle Ps. 16. The Isle of Purbeck in spring is one of the loveliest places on earth. Whatever did we do to deserve to live in such a place?

God is very good... and if our Risen and Ascended Lord is leading the way, it's only going to get better on the other side of the river, "Further in and further up!" as Aslan said...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Paschal's spare moments...

In Paschal's lifetime the Spanish empire in the New World was at the height of its power, though France and England were soon to reduce its influence. The 16th century has been called the Golden Age of the Church in Spain, for it gave birth to Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Peter of Alcantara, Francis Solano and Salvator of Horta.

Paschal's Spanish parents were poor and pious. Between the ages of seven and 24 he worked as a shepherd and began a life of mortification. He was able to pray on the job and was especially attentive to the church bell which rang at the Elevation during Mass. Paschal had a very honest streak in him. He once offered to pay owners of crops for any damage his animals caused!

In 1564 Paschal joined the Friars Minor and gave himself wholeheartedly to a life of penance. Though he was urged to study for the priesthood, he chose to be a brother. At various times he served as porter, cook, gardener and official beggar.

Paschal was careful to observe the vow of poverty. He would never waste any food or anything given for the use of the friars. When he was porter and took care of the poor coming to the door, he developed a reputation for great generosity. The friars sometimes tried to moderate his liberality!

Paschal spent his spare moments praying before the Blessed Sacrament. In time many people sought his wise counsel. People flocked to his tomb immediately after his burial; miracles were reported promptly. In 1690 Paschal was canonized; in 1897 he was named patron of Eucharistic congresses and societies.
Courtesy of Saint of the Day

We have all of us so much to learn from people like Paschal. To give such priority to waiting on our Lord changes everything. We are no longer living for ourselves, in whatever strength we can find within ourselves, or whatever we can absorb, parasitically, from others; we are living for God, in the limitless supply of his grace, and our lives will become signs and beacons to everyone we encounter. Every day I spend outside this way is wasted. Do pray for me, really, please, that I will remember that, and listen; that when I turn to the right or when I turn to the left, I will hear a word behind me, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Teach me..."

Just the most wonderful prayer from Thomas Merton:

"Teach me to go to the country beyond words and beyond names. Teach me to pray on this side of the frontier, here where these woods are.

I need to be led by you. I need my heart to be moved by you. I need my soul to be made clean by your prayer. I need my will to be made strong by you. I need the world to be saved and changed by you. I need you for all those who suffer, who are in prison, in danger, in sorrow. I need you for all the crazy people. I need your healing hand to work always in my life. I need you to make me, as you made your Son, a healer, a comforter, a savior. I need you to name the dead. I need you to help the dying cross their particular rivers. I need you for myself whether I live or die. I need to be your monk and your son. It is necessary. Amen."

Thomas Merton. A Search for Solitude. (Journals, volume 4). Lawrence S. Cunningham, editor. Harper SanFrancisco, 1996: pp. 46-47

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"The glory of the crucified..."

Kathryn, at Good in Parts, quotes Fr Rick, quoting ++Michael Ramsey (!):

"In your service of others, you will feel, you will care, you will be hurt, you will have your heart broken. It is doubtful if any of us can do anything at all until we have been very much hurt, and until our hearts have been very much broken. And this is because God’s gift to us is the glory of the crucified - being sensitive to the pain and sorrow that exists in so much of the world."

She reminded me, yet again, of the words of St Isaac of Nineveh, the solitary, and sometime reluctant Bishop, of the 7th century AD. I've quoted these in this blog before, but I don't suppose this is the last time either...

An elder was once asked, "What is a merciful heart?" He replied:

"It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation.

For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns with without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God."

The Antiphon in our own Franciscan Third Order Office, quoting Galatians 6:14, says it in a slightly different way, but it amounts to the same thing:

"Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world."

Sometimes I feel like the the folk Kathryn is thinking of when she describes her group at the Cathedral, who might feel more than a bit worried at the use of ++Michael's quote as a marketing gambit. At our LPA Commissioning last night, I had the same thought. I hadn't read Kathryn's post then, but I thought, for the nth time, "What am I getting myself into?" (Actually, it's more like, "Letting myself be gotten into," but you get the drift...)

Perhaps my question's just been answered...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Serving in obscurity...

Some Franciscan saints led fairly public lives; St. Catharine of Bologna (1413-1463) represents the ones who served the Lord in obscurity. Catharine, born in Bologna, was related to the nobility in Ferrara and was educated at court there. She received a liberal education at the court and developed some interest and talent in painting. In later years as a Poor Clare, Catharine sometimes did manuscript illumination and also painted miniatures.

At the age of 17, she joined a group of religious women in Ferrara. Four years later the whole group joined the Poor Clares in that city. Jobs as convent baker and portress preceded her selection as novice mistress.

In 1456 she and 15 other sisters were sent to establish a Poor Clare monastery in Florence. As abbess Catharine worked to preserve the peace of the new community. Her reputation for holiness drew many young women to the Poor Clare life. She was canonized in 1712.

Appreciating Catharine's life in a Poor Clare monastery may be hard for us. "It seems like such a waste," we may be tempted to say. Through prayer, penance and charity to her sisters, Catharine drew close to God.

There is just something about the idea of "serving the Lord in obscurity" that seems so right. To cling tightly to our crucified Saviour in hidden places, like ivy; to go on without asking for rewards, or recognition, or thanks, just serving. That's real contentment, real joy: to live for him, and not for what he might do for me. How I long to be like that - how far from it I am! God grant me the grace truly and simply to do what I am given to do...

(St Catharine's details courtesy of Saint of the Day)

Astonishing post...

+Martin, of Argyll and the Isles, has the most extraordinary, liberating, glorious post here. I shan't even attempt to precis it - you must just go and read it, without delay, and do what it says!

Be blessed - be very blessed...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More Eremos music...

There's some more Eremos music online at It's called 'Arne' - rather unusual stuff, being based on a land art installation by my friend Hannelie Grobler at the Arne Nature Reserve here in Dorset. I took a series of photographs of this last year, and they have haunted me ever since. Listening to some tracks by CP McDill (Akashic Crow's Nest, Djinnestan) set me thinking, so I took the .jpg files of the photographs, and using some excellent image synthesiser software developed by Victor Khashchanskiy in Russia, I digitally converted these to .wav files. These sound files were then imported into the soft studio, and with a little extra work using LADSPA plug-ins, formed the underlying sound structure of the piece.

I hope you like it!

Real Resemblance

I've just been reading a post from LutheranChik, where she links to a poem of Charles Tomlinson's, Mushrooms. It's a good poem, but one bit truly jumped out at me:

"...a resemblance, too,
Is real and all its likes and links stay true
To the weft of seeing."

It reminded me of a comment Kelly Joyce Neff left on a post of mine recently, where she quotes CG Jung as saying, of legend, " is all true, even if it never really happened."

There is something more than metaphorical, almost metaphysical, going on here - for nothing that we see or hear or feel is more than the impression left on our senses and our sensitivities by who knows what complex interaction of electromagnetic waves, subtle particles, the echoes and glitches of our own nerves. And yet what we see is real, what we hear matters, what and whom we touch is changed forever...

It is not poets who are unaware of what is real: it is the so-called realists, the people of "muck and brass," who, mistaking the narrow constructs of their perceptions and their preconceptions for the true nature of things, are lost in the twilight of illusion.

Words are odd things. All their likes and links stay true - and I often wonder if that isn't part of what it means to be made in the image of God. Jesus is the Word of God, and through him all things were made (John 1:1,3); in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17) Our own little words are more than sounds on the air or marks on paper. What we say and write matters more than we know. Our words accomplish things we can scarcely understand. The Words of Institution in the Eucharistic liturgy are more than a reminder; what is said at Baptism, at confirmation, at the life profession of a religious, changes things eternally.

We should be more scared than we are. On our tongues and in our fingertips is a little mirror of the power that shaped the galaxies. Oh God, have mercy on our stumblings.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day!

I wonder what the phrase May Day does for you? Does it remind you of Red Square, and the parades of terrifying nuclear hardware that used to haunt our childhoods? Does it speak of holidays, of Maypoles? The promise of summer? Dark rumours of pagan celebrations?

In the Anglican Church May Day is the Feast of St Philip and St James, the Apostles; in the Roman Catholic calendar the day belongs to St Joseph the Worker, a celebration instituted in 1955 by Pope Pius XII.

Traditionally though, in the Roman Catholic church this month is associated with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and in many places statues of the Blessed Virgin are crowned with flowers, mayflowers if possible, and the whole month is dedicated to her.

I'm sensitive to the fact that some of my brothers and sisters at the more evangelical end of the spectrum could be feeling uncomfortable at this point, remembering that in the ancient Celtic calendar this is the feast of Beltane, the beginning of the pastoral summer season when the herds of livestock were led out to the summer pastures and mountain grazing lands, and so might be worrying about syncretism, Mariolatry, and other nightmares.

But think again. Mary is most certainly the Mother of Jesus; and in her own words, all generations will call her blessed. (Luke 1:48) What a charming custom to commemorate the utterly astonishing courage and faithfulness of a barely teenage girl who stood before the Angel of the Lord, in the face of surely the most terrifying promise ever heard, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God..." and said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." (Luke 1:35,38) The very words cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up.

Jesus is, as the Creeds testify, "true God of true God" and Mary is his Mother. Don't we, at the very least, owe her our great affection, our most profound gratitude - for through her faithfulness our Saviour came rescue us from sin - and yes, our awe, that here was a young girl who willingly put herself and all her future into the hands of the living God, whose body was the earthly vessel that for nine long months carried the Son of God, and whose arms held him in all the humble fragility in which he'd been born?

"Mayday Mayday Mayday" is the distress call on VHF Channel 16 of vessels in "grave and imminent danger" at sea. It could well stand for the cry of fallen humanity, of the whole stricken Creation. This May Day, let us celebrate the one who stood before her Maker's angel, and by her submission answered that call, so that our Good Shepherd might lead us out by the path of the Cross to the green pastures of our new life in him.