The Broadcast of Her Majesty the Queen was surely welcomed by all who watched and heard her. A long reigning Sovereign, mother, grandmother and great grandmother was reaching out to encourage not only those of us in the United Kingdom, but in a sense everyone around the globe, whether in the Commonwealth or not. Recalling her own teenage years, she spoke from the experience of wartime : “I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute we will overcome…..We should take comfort, while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again; we will meet again.”
‘We’ll meet again..’, a song of touching resonance by Dame Vera Lynn [ at 103, still more than the Forces’ Sweetheart], that one line gives us hope.
We want to meet again, to resume normal life, but we are aware that there is a time to be secluded, a time for isolation, as there will be a time for opening out, and coming back into world of renewed contact. Yet, we know it will not be the same as before, it will not be business as usual. Our families have learned new disciplines, each of us has made personal adjustments, we have become more aware of the priorities of daily existence, we know that there will be huge economic costs, that society will be changed forever. The political landscape in our own country will be different, with a new awareness of those who serve in the Health Service, of those who work in the Care Homes, and in the support of our communities. What efforts have been made to cope with life and death on a scale unimaginable just last year. Yet, we have had warnings of global catastrophes, of the effects of deprivation and social inequalities, of rampant new diseases, and the destruction of so much of our fragile earth.
This ‘Long Retreat’, these weeks of seclusion, even isolation, have afforded most people the opportunity for deeper thoughts than our busy, even frenetic, lives have hitherto allowed.
I am aware of my blessings, always a good place to start in prayer, as I am sure that each of you is aware of the goods, the given of your lives. We have access to food, we are supported, we have a sense of being in a community that cares. We will readily acknowledge that there will be many for whom these days of ‘lock down’ are a real deprivation, of cramped isolation with children, even some will have restricted means and dreadful hardship. Yet, we see that there is not only a willing government response to assist, but importantly, people within the communities are making do and helping as much as can be. These things speak well of our national morale- the moral capital that years of Christian tradition has engendered in the mainstream of our inheritance.
Those of us with the opportunity and the resources have been able to use this time as indicated earlier as a ‘Long Retreat’.
In such a Retreat we begin with our Blessings, then we look at our Lives, day by day. How are we doing? Is our self-worth taking a hit? How are we getting on with our Companionship in Christ?
It is probably true that we should have a structure : Prayers : Washing [and shaving for some] : breakfast : Prayers : Chores : Mass :Lunch : Siesta : Reading/Writing : Prayers;: relaxation [ quiet reading/radio/television]: Possibly some Exercise ; Evening Meal: Reading /television] ; Bedtime prayers: and so to bed……. That roughly speaking is my routine. The wasteful temptation is to watch too much day-time TV, yet there are some Golden Oldies [ The Lavender Hill Mob, Ealing Comedies] and, the necessary Information from the news channels. Many of you will have found that EWTN, different Religious Channels on the Television, and the World-wide web of the computer bring much appreciated liturgy and worship. I know how many of you are deprived of the Mass and Holy Communion, and my consoling privilege is that I offer the Masses for you, holding your concerns before God. The connectedness of our Communion in Christ although virtual, has a truly and real spiritual dimension. We need to make space for that.
The events of Holy Week, the Three Holy Days, have been largely ‘incognito’, a representative liturgy acknowledging the central truths of our Catholic Faith. Who could not have been touched by the Holy Father, in the emptiness of St Peter’s Square, being what he is the Vicar of Christ, sharing the loneliness and pain.
It seems to me that the hymn “ My song is love unknown” is that which speaks most readily to our present circumstances.
“ My song is love unknown,
My saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O, who am I,
That for my sake
My lord should take
Frail flesh and die? …
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King,
Never was grief like thine!
This is my Friend,
In whose sweet praise
I all my days
Could gladly spend.”
These, the first and last verses, have a haunting beauty, tender and expressive of the love that touches us all when we reflect on the fragility of life, and the enduring Love that embraces us and holds us together.
We are aware of the harrowing grief that is the experience of many, in our country and around the world. The emotional intensity of the Saviour’s Love in the rhythms of the tender heart, in a song poem like this, can assuage grief, and give consoling strength to us each of us.
It is a declaration of daily companionship. We might reflect on that, ‘Our Daily Bread’ which we pray for, and hope to share with one another. It speaks of many graces and yet, it is the real physical companionship, breaking bread together, to which we look forward, and ‘we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.’
However, we have weeks, may be months, to go and we will yet have further opportunities, to explore deep down things. Perhaps we could ponder some thoughts of William Wordsworth :
“ When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying work, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.”
Isolation, seclusion, being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely – it is the opportunity and the condition of that which is creative and profound – Solitude.
In the silence and the special spaciousness of solitude we can acknowledge the green hills, the rivers, the forests , the buildings, the empty city streets, and we can see with a sharpened insight that we are caught up in the grandeur of God’s world, swept up in the ocean of love that we see so poignantly expressed in loving kindness in our hospitals, often sacrificial love, it recalls ‘Love Divine all loves excelling’.
It is my hope and prayer that we will sing the Lord’s songs again together ‘ “we’ll sing again ‘ yes, for ‘All our hope on God is founded’ ! We are an Easter people and, “Alleluia is our song”!
“Alleluia sing to Jesus :
Alleluia King Eternal.. alleluia born of Mary.. he on earth both priest and victim,
In the Eucharistic Feast.”
Every Blessing and Assurance of Prayers and Masses offered for you all,