I was due to spend this week at the Friary of the Society of Saint Francis at Alnmouth, in Northumberland, but a combination of builders at the Vicarage and a lack of funds meant I am in Shropshire – both are equally beautiful. Alnmouth has its long beach and Shropshire has the view from my garden. There is a wonderful tree on the other side of the field which I am always drawn to, it is now without leaf, but no less beautiful for its nakedness.
Whilst here in Shropshire I am re-reading an old spiritual classic; ‘Costing Not Less Than Everything’ by a long dead Roman priest called John Dalrymple. His first chapter considers the presence and the absence of God, something which I guess most of us experience from time to time. Looking at the tree from my lounge windows I get a real sense of the presence of God, beautifully and intricately made, majestically independent of humanity. It was here before I was born and it will probably be here long after I am gone. Yet, once again on the TV last evening we see harrowing pictures of yet another devastating famine in Africa, why does God allow this to happen, where is God? The truth is that this world ‘simultaneously reveals and hides God’. Fr Dalrymple talks about this dichotomy as the ‘Sacrament of God’. God is both present and hidden. We need to be able to read the signs, sometimes the signs can be found in the most unlikely and extraordinary places and things. We need attentive eyes and open ears, to the sights and sounds which surround us, ‘ God is antecedently present and does not have to wait for our acknowledgement’. Perhaps this Lent you might want to look out for the presence of God in your life. As for me I’m going to spend some more time looking at my beautiful tree.
What a great joy it was to come into church on Sunday morning and see that the black plastic sheeting, which had for months concealed the building work and protected us from at least some of the dust, had disappeared! And after Mass to explore the delightful new rooms which have been created. As Father Simon explained, we cannot yet use the new facilities until drains have been dug, but what a great sense of progress! This week the church will be deep cleaned and work begun on the organ. It is a great milestone for us, but of course there is still much more to be done….
With every blessing