In which Ruth lets down her readers

Oh what a bad blogger have I been! My intentions fall by the wayside in direct proportion to looking after two more churches during their interregnum. I collapse at the end of the day in front of the TV with my pussy cats by my side and zonk out completely. And you know something? I don’t even remember what I did last week.

I know it has taken me about a month to read The Cuckoo Calls by Robert Galbraith, aka J K Rowling. I can give you a short review: OK story but too long. I only persevered to find out whodunnit. Writing was ok just too much of it.

On Sunday I had great fun with one of my little interregnum-flocks. We did SWOT analysis and looked at what they wanted in a priest. I managed to contradict most of that. Well, everyone wants a ‘family man with young family’. Jings. You’d be far better with an old wifie my age, I told them. We want someone ‘healthy’ someone said. I take 10 pills to get me going in the morning, said I.  I’ve left them doing the Parish Profile and look forward to reading that.

The diary is pretty full from now on so don’t expect me back here until reflection time. But heh! you never know. I just might be bursting to share something.

Here are some lovely BVM pics to ponder at this pregnant season…

BVM mullan  pregnancy-test  Pregnant Virgin dreamstime  The Crowning by Sara Schnelle

Sister Wendy looks at icons

I’m a huge fan of Sister Wendy. I like her books on art and I like her books on prayer. During Lent you may remember I give up reading fiction and do some serious reading for a change. (I don’t do enough reading of theology and promise every year that I will diary in reading weeks but somehow it just never happens.) So this Lent, among other things, I’ve just finished Sister Wendy’s Real Presence : In search of the earliest icons.

To be honest, it has been a bit of a disappointment. It is not a big book and the print is huge – I didn’t need my reading specs.  There are colour pictures of all the icons she discusses but unfortunately they are not named or numbered until the very end of the book which you don’t find until it is too late. And the quality of the paper is not the best so you can see some through the pages. This book is a follow-up to Encounters with God which I haven’t read, and is all about the earliest icons of Mary. In Real Presence she continues the journey to see icons of Jesus, Mary and the Saints.  These are the icons which survived the iconoclasm of the early eighth century. Many of them are indeed damaged and missing bits here and there.  In fact there are not so many of Jesus.

But the reason it was disappointing was that there just wasn’t very much in the way of content. I just didn’t feel there was the same enthusiasm for the icons as there is for the art she appreciates.  And most of the icons were frankly quite primitive. Yes, I know they are very, very old! But I did find some lovely icons to adore.

Madonna_san_sisto The Virgin of San Sisto.

This is a really unusual icon in that it shows Mary alone. I love the sadness and sorrow of her expression, although Sister Wendy thinks it could have been Mary before the birth of Christ, a doe-eyed village maiden.  Although there is no babe in her arms they are stretched out in prayer and this icon has been venerated for centuries as an icon of healing. The hands are sometimes covered with bejewelled gloves, which seems rather a pity but there you are.


  Sinai_8th_Century_Crucifixion_IconThis incomplete Crucifixion scene from Mount Sinai is probably too small to really see but I have fallen in love with Jesus’ face here. His eyes are closed and he seems dead but he is so handsome and a man I would have followed to the ends of the earth to hear his stories. Such compassion, such love, such weakness and such strength. There are three stars in his hair which signify the crown of thorns, and from his side gushes water and blood. Mary holds a long hankie to suggest grief and the executioners are small dwarfish characters.

Sister Wendy notices that the bad thief is female with long hair and bosoms. And rather large feet it has to be said. I’m not convinced it is a woman but merely a rather overweight man. What do you think?

If you are a huge fan of icons I suspect there are better books out there which will give you more of the history and description. If you are an amateur perhaps this will whet your appetite to learn more. I’d spend your money on something a bit better.

Mary and the Midwives

Mother Anne Dyer is doing another of her splendid art courses again. Mind you, they are at the busiest times of the year for clergy (Lent and Advent) but I’m determined to take time out to enjoy some visual stimuli.

This week we were looking at the journey to Bethlehem, midwives, heavenly hosts, ox and ass, and adoration of shepherds.

The one that stuck in my mind was by Janet McKenzie who is an American artist. I have cards of many of her paintings but can’t remember where I got them. She has done some amazing paintings of the holy family as Native Americans or black people.

This one is called Mary and the Midwives. Mary is not often shown in labour in art – because of that whole immaculate, virgin thing – but here she is holding her belly and the baby. She seems to me to be in her own world, focusing on the pain, on the moment. And the Holy Spirit hovers above her, keeping guard.  The midwives sit silently, praying? They are giving her space until they are needed. They look so beautiful, wise and serene. Love it. How about you?

marywithmidwives mackenzie

Happy Birthday to the BVM (and me!)


My soul magnifies the Just and Gentle One,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for God has looked with favor on a servant who was called

unworthy, unclean, a stumbling block,

a source of scandal and a cause for division.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is God’s name.

Divine mercy is for those who honor God

in all God’s diverse ways of love and loving

from generation to generation.

God strength is shown in patient, persistent,

prayerful witness;

God has honored the pride of those who are overcoming bigotry

and self-hatred;

and has confounded those arrogantly certain about the

thoughts of their hearts

by opening the Divine Embrace to friends and foes alike.

God has invited the powerful to dismount

their thrones of self-righteousness,

and work and wonder among the lowly;

God has filled the hungry with good things,

and invited the rich to seek sustenance among them.

God has helped queer people in ministry–

who have served God’s people at the altar, from the pulpit,

in the pew,

with good gifts of song, dance, healing, creativity, insight,

passion of the flesh and of the spirit–

in remembrance of Divine mercy,

according to the promise made to our ancestors,

to the eunuch and the barren one

and to their descendants forever.

(George A Chien)

(The Assumption of) the Blessed Virgin Mary

In homage to the BVM we used the new inclusive language 1982 liturgy yesterday at St Mark’s. Everyone agreed that it was not inclusive enough, but we’ll keep it going until such times as it becomes truly inclusive and we find alternative words for Father, Lord etc.

I was bemoaning the fact that I haven’t found any good modern hymns for the BVM. (And please don’t suggest Mary, blessed teenage Mother or whatever its called – it just doesn’t cut the mustard).  Does anyone know of any good stuff out there?  Mind you, Andrew got a standing ovation for Dubois’ Toccata in G major at the end. It was gloriously frothy.

And if you haven’t already seen this on Kelvin’s blog, then you really should. It was a joy to have so many of the Glen10 leaders (part of our Provincial Youth Network) in the front row yesterday doing wonders for our age profile. I could just see them giving their all with Hail Holy Queen.