As some of us travelled yesterday to witness a new dawn breaking for the cathedral and for Bro Deiniol in Bangor, what will the spring sunshine bring to Bangor and in Kathy’s Ministry we wonder? I noticed the brightness of the mountains dusted with a little snow and reflected on the first line of a poem that might complete itself for transfiguration next week. But it is to another brightness we turn today. It is the surprise of turning aside to see beauty and brightness in unexpected places. Simeon, following the leading of the spirit of God, goes to the temple at the right time lifting up the child, he proclaims the light of God in Jesus. Anna turns aside from her prayers to offer words of prophecy about Jesus’ future. Both were able and willing to turn aside to see this moment. Are we willing to do the same this Candlemas? Three poems which speak of turning aside to see beauty in an unexpected place:
Our world seems weary of its winter coat.
Clouds part, and blue lies beyond.
A soft blue streaked with white cotton
as if winter was never happening beneath.
It is gone almost as soon as it arrived,
Perhaps I was not supposed to see it.
A change of scene, a glimpse backstage.
Though I wonder as clouds are drawn
and the sky reveals a little of herself
If only I could live in that short moment and
could treat each encounter as such a gift? (S.Elliott)
Are we ready to turn aside and see what may seem as if we are not meant to see? These are the moments of grace, moments of glory when we begin to see through the veil to the space that God inhabits, the space that is between all things, connections and partnerships, energies and challenges. If indeed we are willing and able to turn aside when prompted, taking those moments with us can be that which carries us when the dark clouds descend once again.
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering
after an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you. (R.S. Thomas)
Clearly he didn’t forget. The image was ingrained somewhere is his mind. That experience of the bright field stayed with him as the realisation came that here was the pearl of great price. Here was a small miracle that was ongoing and purposeful and changes us if we are willing to take it with us or to see it in each encounter. That of course being the great challenge of Candlemas, to be able and willing to recognise the Christ.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude. (E.B.Browning)
Candlemas is not blackberry season, however with regard to our environmental stewardship most of humanity are merely plucking blackberries. How do we begin to enable people to turn aside to see so that the full extent of heaven and earth is before them in each fragment of life, to which this poem alludes? The reflection of Thomas on Exodus should be clear of Moses before the flaming bush and God calling to him to take off his shoes for he is standing on Holy Ground.
At candlemas we are at the beginning of the spring. A time when the brightness is beginning to return and the light of Jesus as the one to lead us on the true path is there for us to see. It is the rare individual who can for themselves see all places as sacred without someone to point the way. I find myself at odds with some who do not share the optimism I see in these poems. For in each there is potential to see the world where a brighter future is possible, if we take the chance to capture the moment and hold on to the brightness that has been revealed.