So, we are into a new year, 2014. The reviews of 2013 are almost over, the official papers for 1984 have been unclassified and are being poured over by journalists and historians for the ‘juicy bits’ and the rest of us, well we are just getting on with it. I always have a strange feeling in January. In December you feel as though you have done everything, as though everything is complete and then you wake up on New Year’s Day with everything lying ahead of you, to do, once again. But that is life, it happens each day, each week and each year; there are always new beginnings.
I’m not saying I find that at all depressing, in fact it is exciting, to think about what lies ahead, what is planned and what will come along to surprise us. And there will be a great deal of both in the life of the Cathedral. We have been spending the last couple of weeks trying to get in place the next stage of Living God which will take us through Lent and into Holy Week and Easter. The theme will be around how what believe about God manifests itself in our discipleship and principally in our prayer life. There are some exciting things in prospect – a month on the Bible; spiritual conversations with the clergy for members of the congregation; a retreat weekend; retreat strands through Holy Week and, as they say, much, much more. When the final details are in place we will be publishing it all.
In addition, in the tradition of ‘Die Harder’ and ‘Christ Rests’, the last two installations for Lent, we are working with two artists whose work will be in the Cathedral throughout Lent and Holy Week and will be stimulating our thinking and our praying, and, I hope, enhancing the Lenten experience for us. Again, the details and the artists have yet to be announced.
So this is all to tantalise you at this stage and I make no apologies for that.
So it has been, for me, a quiet week, (apart from discovering a Cathedral Loaf on a stall in the Borough Market) but I have been very conscious of the dreadful conditions that others have been living through in other parts of the country and of the frightening collapse of civil society in South Sudan. I have a particular feeling for that country after having met the Archbishop at a conference in South Africa back in 2007 and having been impressed by him and then having the privilege to organise the service for the members of the General Synod to celebrate the creation of this new, independent country. Then all seemed positive and full of possibility, a new beginning for the people. The news therefore of a challenge to the elected government, of deaths and of people fleeing is deeply distressing. Pray for the people of South Sudan, the Anglican Church there and for Archbishop Daniel Deng. They need our prayers.
The poet T S Eliot (who died this day in 1965) in the first of the Four Quartets, Burnt Norton, reflects on the passing of time
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Past and future are all in God’s hands but it is always in the present where we know God. We see God in the past, we know that God is in the future but knowing God in the present moment is something that we – and I – need to work at. There is a temptation to look to the past or to live for the future but perhaps a new beginning for us could be to live in that present moment where God truly is to be known.
The great teacher on this is the eighteenth century Jesuit, Jean-Pierre De Caussade, who wrote in his book ‘The Sacrament of the Present Moment’
The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms insofar as it overflows with faith, trust and love.
So perhaps we could learn to live in the present moment; not be devoted to the past or hankering for the future but lliving with the Living God, who lives with us where we are now.
Lord, may I know you
present in this moment
present in every moment.