Living God in Jerusalem – Speakers’ Corner

Wander along to Hyde Park in London and its northeast corner and on many days and especially at the weekend you will find plenty of people standing on a soapbox at what is know as Speakers’ Corner.  You can hear reasonable and unreasonable, likely and unlikely opinions, acceptable and unacceptable being aired.  The audience join in, heckling the speaker or warmly applauding some expression of common sense that they hear.  It is a bit on an institution, a place from which you are free to speak and express your views.


A speaker mounts his soapbox

Today we have been to the Temple Mount otherwise known as Haram esh-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary.  We dressed modestly out of respect for those who worship there and, entering from the western side had a fantastic visit.  I said that I would share with you what were new experiences.  Well we had a good amount of time and so we were taken to the eastern wall of the Haram, the side which faces the Mount of Olives and to the south-east corner, on first sight rather empty and unimpressive but now, I have finally discovered, unmissable.  This was part of the extension to the platform that Herod the Great had built for his grand reconstruction of the Temple.  But on this side was located the Portico of Solomon.  I am ashamed to say that in all my visits to this holy site this fact had alluded me.  But here in a colonnaded area people would sit and would listen to teachers.  And it was here that they sat and listened to a rabbi who had come down from Nazareth, Jesus.  He would have been one of many rabbis who were teaching in what was the equivalent of our Speakers’ Corner in London, a place of debate, of argument, of challenge, and in the gospels we encounter all of that.


The rather empty and unimpressive south-east corner

It is St John who tells us that Jesus was there.

‘At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe.’ (John 10.22-15)

It was winter, the wind was blowing and they were keeping warm and this dispute begins.  But they gather around him because this is what happened in this portico.  We can imagine that the same happened at other times in this same place, this place of debate.  Gentiles were welcome in this part of the Temple complex, it was the Temple itself that they couldn’t entered but they too could wander the portico, the colonnade and listen to these wandering teachers, these itinerant preachers and this Jesus, this northern guy, with his rag-bag collection of disciples and followers seemed always to gather a big crowd.

The apostles had listened to Jesus speaking here and so it was natural that they adopted it as a place from which to teach.  We hear of the Portico again in the Acts of Apostles.  Following the healing of the paralysed man at the Beautiful Gate we read

‘While [the man] clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” (Acts 3.11-13)

Then, according to Acts again, it became the place where the whole Christian community gathered, the church that came together in the Portico.

‘Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.’ (Acts 10.12)

So this ‘Speakers’ Corner’ became the place where the church was rooted in debate and teaching, in signs and wonders.  What an amazing part of the Haram, the Temple Mount – and why hadn’t I visited it before?


Remains of what was there are being exposed

But then I wondered whether Jesus was there before.  Was this where his parents found him when he was lost all those years before?

‘After three days [his parents] found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.’ (Luke 2.46)

Perhaps, maybe.  Did Jesus return to this place of debate 20 years later and continue the discussion.  It’s an intriguing idea. The debates of course go on, and they need to.  I certainly won’t be missing this part of the Haram again – it was the ‘nursery slopes’ of the church. But just to lighten the mood a poem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, more famous for his argumentative detective.  The poem is called ‘A Parable’.

The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
And warmly debated the matter;
The Orthodox said that it came from the air,
And the Heretics said from the platter.
They argued it long and they argued it strong,
And I hear they are arguing now;
But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese,
Not one of them thought of a cow.

God of wisdom,
may we know when and where to speak,
when to stop arguing
and when to simply listen.


Living God in Jerusalem – Uncovering the past in the present

There are many things that make an impression on pilgrims when they come to the Holy Land.  The noise, the traffic and the sheer quantity of people are of course some of what they find. But other things create a deeper, significant and more lasting impression.  Some pilgrims of course leave a lasting impression on the place itself.  We have had a bit of both of that today as we focused our attention on the birth narratives, first in Ein Karem and then in Bethlehem.

Groups most often go to the church of St John the Baptist but this group was going instead to the Visitation Church.  The reason that a lot of groups don’t go there is that the coach can’t get very close and the final approach is up a rather steep flight of steps.  But before you ever get anywhere near the church you come to a well, or more precisely a spring.


The spring at Ein Karem

The water flows gently, but constantly from this spring and as far as people know it always has done.  When Mary came to visit her cousin Elizabeth, whilst both of them were pregnant, they must have used this spring in order to get water for the household.  That kind of thing is indisputable – they needed water and this was the source.  We stood close to the spring and just listened.  It was a wonderful experience. In the silence I was reminded of a passage from St John’s Gospel

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7.37-38)

This spring flows and flows, living water, like grace abounding.  It was a wonderful place to begin, a lasting impression.


Look – no scaffolding!

Yet what made the biggest impression on this visit came in the afternoon when we arrived at Bethlehem itself.  I was here in February with the Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage.  The scaffolding was still up inside and outside of the church in various places and restoration work was ongoing.  Eight months later and it looks so different.  The north nave aisle is still being completed as is the northern portion of the Constantinian floor of the nave.  But elsewhere … well it’s hard to do it justice.  What has been discovered of the past is incredible.  The centuries of grease and grime that had covered the columns and the walls in a black patina have gone.  What has been revealed are amazing mosaics including an angel which no one knew was there.


The once hidden angel

On each of the pillars is a painted icon – and the pillars themselves gleam.


Incredible columns

But on these you also find the graffiti of the past.  These are the impressions that former pilgrims have made upon the place.


Graffiti lost and now revealed

This one grabbed my attention.  It looks like an heraldic crest, a doodle by a knight.  On closer examination it looks like a rampant lion.  I was wondering, and this is pure speculation, but was this a doodle by an English or French knight, a Crusader, some one marching under the banner of Richard the Lion-heart?  I don’t know – but it sent a shiver down my spine.  This impression made an impression.  Who was the person who scored this, maybe with pride, into the structure of the place?  What impression did the church make on him, because it would have been a beautiful place with all of the mosaics and icons intact.  I imagined him like the knight in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ someone who would have made another pilgrimage from Southwark and it’s Priory.

A KNIGHT there was, and that (one was) a worthy man,
Who from the time that he first began
To ride out, he loved chivalry,
Fidelity and good reputation, generosity and courtesy.
He was very worthy in his lord’s war,
And for that he had ridden, no man farther,
As well in Christendom as in heathen lands,
And (was) ever honoured for his worthiness

Leaving the ‘little town’ you pass by more recent impressions.


A beautiful smile from a hideous wall

The wall is still there and the graffiti of modern worthy and honourable people persists, people calling for freedom and justice.  It makes a lasting impression – but then truth, like water, should ever flow, from past, to present.

Jesus, living water,
refresh and sustain us;
Jesus, the Father’s truth,
inspire and enlighten us;
Jesus, always in our present,
uncover our past and lead us to your future.

Living God in Jerusalem – Watch where you walk

It’s good advice, wherever you are, and especially in these days when many of us are texting as we walk or engrossed in that other world that is being delivered through our headphones – watch where you walk! Distracted as we so often are nowadays we can easily miss where we’re putting our feet or what we’re walking past.

No street in the old city of Jerusalem is without its treasures.  Today we took a walk from Herod’s Gate to the Pools of Bethesda. That basically involves walking down one street, Herod’s Gate Ascent as it is called, before turning left and heading down what we know as the Via Dolorosa but in the direction of the Lion (St Stephen’s) Gate. Those who have been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem are used to competing with small tractors pulling carts behind them, with coaches and minibuses and cars negotiating the far too narrow streets that people drive along.  Now there is a more recent phenomenon and one with much greater stealth – the electric bike!  These are ridden at speed and arrive behind you silently.  You have to have your wits about you as you manage the age-polished limestone pavement, steps and slopes as you head down this ascent.


Symbols stenciled on houses 

But as we walked we kept stopping to look what was painted on the walls.  This street is part of the Muslim Quarter and the images on the houses were put there by proud Muslims and especially those who have been on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.  This pilgrimage to circle the Kaaba and to perform other associated rites, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.  If you have done it then you proudly proclaim this to the community by putting on your home a symbol of the Kaaba itself.  It really is fantastic when you, a pilgrim yourself, see the symbols of others pilgrimage so clearly displayed.


Celebrating the Hajj

But the walls you pass by contain other wonders as well.  Turning the corner we stopped to look at a portion of wall.  Just examining it you could easily see the remains of one bricked up arch, the remains of an arch that once sprung out across the road from this wall.  And at the base the unmistakable stones from Herod’s temple, destroyed in AD 70 and here reused by some canny builder.  The wall told its own story of change and reuse and of the passing of time and purpose.  Yet there it was, a wall, doing its job as a changing world passed by and pilgrims paused to look and wonder.


A wall that tells a story all of its own

The reuse of stones is as old as the hills from which they are quarried.  In the account of the battle between the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal we read this

‘First [Elijah] repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name’; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord.’  (1 Kings 18. 30b-32a)

The welsh poet has a lovely phrase about stones in his poem ‘In Church’

It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.

The stones in his imagination are more animate, than inanimate and framing something of a mystery, holding a mystery.


An old British Mandate post box!

We walked back along El Wad and there at the corner was something else in the wall, which I had never seen before, a reminder of former times, just sitting there, ready to tell its stories.  Watch where you walk – you could easily miss something!

Lord, may I walk through life
taking notice of what is around me
because if I don’t
I might just walk past you.

Living God in Jerusalem – Setting off

Having just returned from Romania I’m now off to the Holy Land. You may question the sanity of this. As I sit waiting for my flight I’m inclined to question it as well. But I’m looking forward to being back in Jerusalem and at St George’s College and excited about helping to lead a course over the next two weeks, helping people discover the land that Jesus knew, the land in which he walked, the land in which he rose to new life, the land in which the church came to birth.

I promise not to blog all the time. You have enough ‘stuff’ to deal with. But I will share anything I think you’d be interested in. Please keep me in your prayers, and the people at the College and the participants on the course. And pray with the psalmist, as we did in Morning Prayer today, for the peace of Jerusalem.

Let there be peace upon Israel.‘ Ps 125.5

Living God in Romania – A long long way

Can you remember 1998 and a hit song by Fat Boy Slim? He sang ‘Praise you’ and the opening words came to my mind when we began this final day of our pilgrimage around Romania.

We’ve come a long long way together 
Through the hard times and the good
I have to celebrate you baby
I have to praise you like I should.

We’ve travelled a huge distance. Today we’ve started in Braşov and will end at Bucharest Airport. But pilgrimage is always about travelling distances together ‘through the hard times and the good.’ But these times whilst demanding have been good.

The exterior of Peles Castle

The final visit was to Peles Castle, a fantasy of a building set in beautiful woodland, but on a Saturday something of a tourist hotspot! But it gave us a chance to get together and have a group photo.

Our pilgrimage group

We will go our separate ways and each will take something with them I’m sure. For me it has to be the amazing images painted on the outside of the monasteries and the incredible calendars on the inside. Such an imaginative way of guiding the community through the year. Three lovely Masses in three different places. The beauty of this country. The colours of autumn. But always the joy of travelling with Christian sisters and brothers.

I know it’s Celtic and not Romanian but what better than this blessing to send us on our way.

May the road rise to meet you, 
may the wind be ever at your back. 
May the sun shine warm upon your face, 
and the rains fall soft upon your fields. 
And until we meet again, 
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Living God in Romania – Into the woods

It’s no secret that I love musicals – there is hardly a musical that I don’t like. We are fortunate at Southwark Cathedral to have in the Harvard Chapel a plaque commemorating our association with Oscar Hammerstein. I love his collaborations with Rogers. But I also love the work of Stephen Sondheim and particularly his musical ‘Into the woods’. His clever weaving together of so many fairy stories and the subversive ways in which he plays with them and with the fears of childhood, are amazing.

Into the woods

The woods of Romania, through which were have been driving today, are beautiful. Each day the colours of autumn have become increasingly stunning. Even our guide commented that this is one of the best autumns he has seen. We were traveling today to visit not monasteries but castles, two in fact, the famous Bran Castle and the amazing Rasnov Castle. The latter standing high above the town beneath is a rather crumbling reminder of what it was. Nevertheless it is a wonderful place to visit and from its walls you can see across the amazing countryside that surrounds it.

Bran Castle by contrast, perhaps the most visited place in Romania, is as it was when it was one of the homes of the Romanian Royal Family. But the reason people go is because it was the home of the person we know as Vlad the Impaler. He was a protector of his people who did use rather brutal but effective ways of getting rid of his enemies. It was the novelist Bram Stoker who took some of the rumours about this prince – for instance that he drank the blood of his victims – and created the figure of Dracula. It’s something of a blessing and a curse – a blessing in that a million visitors come here with their tourist pounds, dollar and Euros, a curse because people are prepared to believe what they want to believe rather than the truth.

Approaching Bran Castle

Perhaps what Stoker did was to respond to the terrors of the night that can exist inside our heads, the childhood fears that are around going into the woods. So many of our Fairy Tales, which originate in the stories told in settlements in woods in Central Europe, before they get into the hands of Disney, are brutal and disturbing. They touch our deepest fears – and that is what Stoker did as well. It is such a perfect image of life-threatening evil, the creature that exists in the cloak of darkness, silently entering our nighttime space and draining the life blood from us in a semi-sexual way.

Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian-American actor, created the character for the silver screen back in 1931 and his portrayal perhaps has defined all subsequent manifestations of this character. He is an icon of the terrifying.

The classic portrayal by Bela Lugosi

Our day however began in the Black Church in Brasov. This huge church, called black because it was burnt in the 17th century, is a wonderful example of the Lutheran tradition in this part of Transylvania. At our Eucharist we asked God to bless the icons that people had bought from the monasteries that we have visited. But in my homily I reminded that as Jesus is the true icon of God, we also bear the divine image. As Athanasius said

‘God became man so that we might become God.”

At our best we reflect the nature of the God in whose image we were made. Icons of goodness, not icons of evil. There is room in the world for stories about evil as long as we also tell the truth about the God who for love became as we are, so that evil would be defeated, in and out of the woods of our imagination.

One of the great prayers from Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer is a perfect prayer for today.

LIGHTEN our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Living God in Romania – ‘thy walls sublime’

Tomorrow in Windsor Castle another royal wedding will take place as Princess Eugenie marries Jack Brooksbank. Windsor is one of our best examples of what a Norman castle would have looked like, with its motte-and-bailey structure, the things we learnt about at school. There within those walls is the chapel, the church, stoutly defended and serving the community within.

The church at Prejmer

This afternoon we visited the largest ‘defended’ church in Romania. It is in the small town of Prejmer in Transylvania. The journey there had taken us through spectacular scenery. The Bicaz Gorge is stunning, a deep ravine cut into the limestone mountains. Then we passed through open plains where villagers were farming as they perhaps have always done. We then arrived at the walls surrounding this mediaeval church. It is now Evangelical Lutheran but was built in the 12th century as a Catholic church and very quickly was surrounded by deep walls. These were extended over the centuries almost in the style of a motte and bailey except that where the tower would be, as at Windsor, stands the church. The walls protect the church, not the monarch, the heavenly kingdom rather than the earthly.

The church and the inside of the walls

I was reminded of a hymn we sometimes sing

City of God, how broad and far
outspread thy walls sublime!
The true thy chartered freemen are
of every age and clime:

It’s a hymn, of course, about Jerusalem and the City of God. But as St Augustine wrote his great work with that title he was considering a church and a city that was under attack. That was what was being experienced in this part of Europe and this was the response of the church. But it wasn’t just to defend the priests and the material treasures of the church. In just the same terms as the martyr St Lawrence spoke before his accusers in Rome, these defences were built to protect the real treasures of the church. When Lawrence was ordered to deliver the treasures of the Church to Rt the Prefect of Rome he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church. These sublime walls that we walked around were to protect the people and to store their treasures, their stock of food, the tools they needed to work.

It was a perfect expression in stone of the true vocation of the church. In the Acts of the Apostles with the creation of the order of deacon and in the ministry of Paul there is a devotion and a commitment to serving the needs of the poor. This is a priority as it must still be for the church, defending the poor, the community, the people.

I was reminded of one other thing. In Joshua 2 we read of Rahab the prostitute and we are told

Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the outer side of the city wall and she resided within the wall itself. (Joshua 2.15)

In the thick defensive walls of Jericho, thousands of years ago, people like Rahab lived. Her example of faithfulness, as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews stresses, was lived out in the walls.

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient,because she had received the spies in peace.(Hebrews 11.31)

Numerous dwellings and store rooms set in the walls

The defensive walls were made sublime when used as a gesture of peace. ‘Peace be within your walls’ says the psalmist. We experienced that in these ancient walls today.

God, may we seek always the welfare of the poor and the good of all people and may the walls we build protect, embrace and make secure and not seek to exclude. Amen.

God’s gift

Part of the legacy of the Tudor history of Bankside and the surroundings of Southwark Cathedral is the generosity of Edward Alleyn. His life was spent in the theatre, acting on the stage, and with Philip Henslowe, owning theatres in the Bankside area and acting as a member of the Corporation of Wardens of St Saviour’s (what is now the Cathedral). But his purchase of the Manor of Dulwich allowed him to build a college and a chapel. The chapel is called ‘Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift’ and still acts as a central place of worship in the heart of Dulwich village.

The monastic church at Neamt

Today has been a day of journeying and visiting more monasteries, not the painted ones in the particular sense of those we saw yesterday but other wonderful places of worship equally decorated and glorious. But one of the names we came across reminded me of Dulwich.

Bogdan is a Slavic name which is made up of two words – Bog which means God, and Dan which means gift – so, to please Alleyn’s heart, we too have been in ‘God’s gift’.

The monastic life flourishes in Romania. There are huge monasteries still in existence and seminaries in which young boys, not all destined for the priesthood, are taught the things of faith, of prayer, of theology. Whilst we were visiting we saw teenage boys cleaning their chapel and its furnishings. It reminded me of being at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield. Every Wednesday afternoon (and this was Wednesday afternoon) we too had to clean the chapel. The same was going on here at the Seminary connected to the monastery at Neamt.

Seminarians cleaning

Earlier though we had witnessed what difference a monastery and monks and nuns with vision and passion can make to people’s lives. We visited and had lunch in the Monastery of Bogdanesti. It is named after ‘God’s Gift’ and the gift it provides is residential care for more than 150 older people. Some of these have special needs, others are simply old and without anyone to care for them. Some have been abandoned by their family who cannot afford to look after them any longer, many are never visited by family. They sleep in gender segregated dormitories, bed close to bed, no personal space, very little mental stimulation. Many of us first became aware of the needs of Romanians following the fall of the Ceausescu regime when we began to see pictures of the orphanages and the children being kept in terrible conditions. The conditions in this specially built home were nothing like that, but to be honest, there were similarities.

The psalmist speaks of

Young men and women alike,
   old and young together
! (Psalm 148.12)

An inspirational priest working for the poor

The psalm is about praise but here these groups of people, often amongst the most vulnerable in society, have suffered for want of an infrastructure of care. It is God’s gift that the church is providing this and these monks and nuns, with others who help with the caring, are doing their very best for these older people. The work and care worn faces of the residents said it all. They have seen terrible things. The oldest we met was 92. She has seen it all. Yet she had a deep serenity and a real dignity and as I held her hand she was God’s gift to me today.

Mother looks after the running of the care home

The last McCabe group to visit the monastery and this care home collected money between them and passed it to me so that I could give it to the priest. We had had a collection on the bus. Between us we gave a substantial donation to their work of care. It was all we could do – apart from to keep them in our prayers. Please pray with us for them.

Generous God, for all your gifts we thank you. May we share them with qual generosity with our sisters and brothers in the greatest need, wherever and whoever they are. Amen.

Living God in Romania – Snakes and Ladders

It was one of the first games that as children we learnt to play. Throw the dice and you could climb the ladder or if you landed on the wrong square descend down one of the long snakes. The game itself originated in India in the 2nd century AD and it is no surprise to learn that from the first it was a game that had a moral basis, virtues and vices, the virtues took you higher on the rungs of the ladder, the vices had you heading down the snake.

Today the pilgrimage focused on visits to three of the famous painted monasteries in this area. We have seen four of the eight that exist and today we went to Sucevita, Humorului and Voronet. It is hard to described the magnificence of these places and the quality of the paintings that cover the walls and the skill, as well as the imagination, of the painters. In many ways they were following a series of traditions of how things should be depicted as I was commenting yesterday and that is what makes it possible to learn to ‘read’ them. But in each place there is something different, something special.

The ladder

On the south facing wall of the church at Sucevita there was a ladder, not so much snakes and ladders (though the snake was there by implication) but a ladder reaching up to heaven. Those seeking entry were climbing the rungs. Angels hovered over them holding a crown above each one waiting to see whether Jesus would admit them through the gate. Others were toppling from the ladder, dragged off by little devils, falling to their fate.

It reminded me that in the western tradition the ladder also features, in the writings of St Benedict but especially in that classic of mediaeval English spirituality ‘The Ladder of Perfection’ written by the Augustinian Canon, Walter Hilton. The book is about the Christian life seeking that perfection by ascending the rungs of the ladder. Of course, all of this has foundations in the vision of Jacob (lying with his head on that hard pillow!) when he dreamt

that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28.12)

Mary at the heart of the church

At Humorului there was a wonderful depiction of the church gathered around Mary. There are in fact numerous icons of Our Lady on these churches. The devotion to her is tremendous but here we see her in the place of the Mother of the Church. Elsewhere we see her with the apostles on the day of Pentecost. All of this draws on the account in Acts 1 where we read

All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.‘ (Acts 1.14)

Mary is there when the church comes into being and these icons celebrate that.

They await our entry into heaven

At Voronet is an amazing panel featuring Mary once again but seated alongside others who, in the Romanaian tradition are seen as foundational and the first citizens of heaven – the patriarchs Abrham, Issac and Jacob – but also the penitent theif. There he stands holding his cross and it is not just here that he appears. He is pictured with Mary and the Patriarchs waiting for us in heaven – Mary because of her Assumption, the Penitent thief because of those words from the cross

‘[Jesus] replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’‘ (Luke 23.43)

It is the ‘today’ in that verse that places this unnamed thief, but in the western tradition known as St Dismas or in the Orthodox tradition, St Rakh, immediately in heaven. And there he is. He climbed the ladder, which is often how the cross is depicted, a ladder that Christ climbed for us. In many ways this is how the cross is seen in the Anglo Saxon epic poem ‘The Dream of the Rood’

The young warrior stripped himself then—that was God Almighty—
strong and firm of purpose—he climbed up onto the high gallows,
magnificent in the sight of many. Then he wished to redeem mankind.
I quaked when the warrior embraced me—
yet I dared not bow to the ground, collapse 
to earthly regions, but I had to stand there firm. 
The rood was reared. I heaved the mighty king,
the Lord of Heaven—I dared not topple or reel.

It was the snake, the serpent that had tempted our first parents, Adam and Eve, to sin, it was the cross, the ladder set up between earth and heaven, that brought us to perfection.

We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee. Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Living God in Romania – Entering the mystery

We are staying in the city of Radauti for two nights and as we are close to the Bogdana Monastery a few of us got up and went across to experience a little of the Liturgy before we had breakfast. Being able to drop in and drop out of services is something that we don’t quite understand as Anglicans where we are meant to be there at the beginning and still there to the bitter end! But the whole understanding of what the liturgy is in the Orthodox Church asks different things of those who attend it.

Entering the mystery

We walked into the church, built in the same form as others that we have been visiting – a little nave, before entering in an inner room and then beyond that the space before the iconostasis. The liturgy had probably been going on for quite a while and we arrived as it was drawing to a conclusion. The priest was at the altar, the cantors at the lectern, one responded to the other. The faithful were engaged in their devotions and listening in to what was being said and sung.

It is mysterious and not just because we couldn’t understand a word that was being said (apart from Amen of course) and not just because it was hard to recognise what was happening. But the greater and deeper mystery is the realisation that this Liturgy is an echo of the eternal, heavenly liturgy. The star covered ceiling above us gave us the idea that we were connected with heaven at that very moment. As our own liturgy says

Therefore with angels and archangels,
and with all the company of heaven,
we proclaim your great and glorious name,
for ever praising you and saying:
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Passion in real time - a retreat for Holy Week

Led by the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark