Exsultet

Exult: exult angel-thronged skies, God-filled mysteries , Messengers and servants of God now blow your loudest trumpets. Such a king and such a victory. Rejoice earth, pure glory has flooded your corners and gloom picked up its skirts and fled.

Oh yes, Mother church rejoices, robed in lightning, and this hall resounds with the deafening cries of the peoples.

It is a just and worthy thing to acclaim with all the loving service of heart and mind and voice the invisible and all powerful Father and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For these are the true paschal feasts, in which that real Lamb was slain, whose blood marks out the doorposts of the faithful.

This is the night, in which our mothers’ mothers and our fathers’ fathers, the children of Israel, were led out of Egypt and you crafted it so that they passed through the waters, and not even their feet were wet.

This is the night on which a pillar of fire purged the shadows of sins.

This is the night, this is the very moment, when grace comes back to those who believe in Christ wherever they are, and unites them with the saints.

This is the night when, having shattered the chains of death, Christ rose as victor from the underworld. For what would birth bring us, if he had not rescued us?  O marvel at your loving care enfolding us! O the immeasurable delight of your love: that, to redeem your servant, you handed over your Son! O necessary sin of Adam, expunged by the death of Christ.

O happy fault, which won so towering a Redeemer. O truly blessed night, for only night saw the moment and the hour when Christ rose from the dead. This is the night, of which it was written: And night will shine like day: night will light up my sweet joys.

O truly blessed night, in which heaven is joined to earth, the sacred to the human!

This night you are all grace and graces, fatherly God.

Receive all this: this candle, the solemn gift woven of our praise freely given, and of our work, and of the flowing gift of the mother honey bees.

This is one fire made many, yet never made less by its giving.

Fire and flame and a pillar in your temple, a precious torch which grows by dividing as it is fed by the mother bee’s melting offering.

We pray to you, o Lord, that this wax, dedicated in your name, may endure undimmed to destroy the shadow of this night. Receive it as a pleasing scent and let it join with the stars. May the morning star, the light-bringer, find its flames, that Light-Bringer who never sets. Christ your son, who, returned from the dead, shines serene upon the human race, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

(Sophie Agrell and Rosemary Hannah)

A clergy friend of ours asked if we could manage a free translation, shortened, of the Latin Exsultet, the great hymn of the church sung in the night when we look to the resurrection, which marks the lighting of Pascal candle. What you see above is what we came up with.

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Martha’s work

Clearing up after a meal like that – well it is not the work of moments. We are all in a strange mood, too, which seemed to slow everything down. The Rabbi and the New Israel had gone out suddenly, unexpectedly. A group of the others had gone too. Young Mark was one of them. Not grown up enough to be a man, too adult to be a child.

I was organising the clearing, the scrubbing. Pots, dishes, the big wine mixer. An undercurrent of apprehension, of worry, ran like dregs of the cups, put to drain. A sluggish ooze.

Like I say, it was a lot of work and we wanted everything perfectly clean. Then Mark ran in, mother naked except for a scrap of cloth clutched over his privates. He was wide-eyed, terrified, horribly clear and coherent. And we all gathered round to listen.

You know what we heard. The aching sorrow of it. The pitiful betrayal. Judas. I had served that meal. Put the pot of bitter herb before Judas.

Mary went into a corner and rolled herself up into a ball and rocked, dry eyed. I cannot remember now what Joanne did. Somebody went to tell the Rabbi’s mother. Perhaps it was her.  I finished the dishes. Then I took lye and I went into the upper room and I scrubbed and scrubbed the dining bench where Judas had sat until my hands started to bleed at the knuckles and I knew I had to stop.

So I started to clean the whole house. It had just been cleaned for Passover but that did not stop me. I scrubbed the floors. I washed the tables. I was just wiping out the corners with a damp cloth, hoping to catch some new speck of dust, when Peter burst in. He was red eyed, incoherent, but we made out that they were torturing and mocking the Rabbi and some kind of trial had been put on.

It was full day when John came back. I was rubbing over the ceilings with a cloth wrapped round a broom although I had done that an hour earlier. He said: ‘He has been condemned. We cannot let him die all alone. I will fetch the other women. Come, we will go and stand and watch.’ He looked no more than a child to me, a solemn, wise child, full of the childish certainty about what was right.

I touched Mary’s shoulder, daring for the first time to break into her grief, and she touched my bleeding hands, daring for the first time to break into mine. Then we went side by side to do the hardest thing we had ever done.

 

Frog-off 2016

I have been straining my ears for at least the past week, waiting impatiently for Frog-off. It came on Friday night, when a week of malaises (the joys of caring for the young, they share all their germs) had left me jaded and tired. It cam, as it always does, as a joy. The first tiny chainsaw of the frogs, calling out in the dark in hope and desire. Frog-off.

This year, it is on the late side. The earliest I have heard it here is in Feb but the latest was in the chillingly cold spring two years ago when I had to wait until April. It is the first undeniable  point of spring for me. The joyous moment when living things start to return to the upland bog which is my home. My hopes have been raised for more than two weeks by persistent herons frogging in my pond (it has no fish, they were catching something).

The frogs are the clearest sign of the fact that a visually dreary landscape has a rich inner life. Here, the numbers are huge. They are of course supported by all the little things which live under than, the invertebrates, and they in turn support the bird life. They are in important early resource to the herons and the barn owls.

More than that, they are a joy in themselves. The winter is over and past, and the voice of the frog is heard in our land.

Not straight at all

For most of my life, I knew I was straight. To be a little more accurate, I thought I knew I was straight. About two years ago, dancing at a ceilidh with a dear friend, it dawned on me. She was not just a dear friend. She was the woman I loved.

It did come as a surprise. But the more I thought about it, the more certain I became. The more I was with her, the more I fell in love with her. The more I loved her, the more I desired her. Not hard, for she is an astonishingly beautiful woman.

In the summer, she told me that she loved me. That was the beginning of something I had not seriously expected to have again, a real love affair. I wonder if real love affairs are the prerogative of the middle aged and the old. When young, I was unsurprised, if pleased, when I fell in love. Now I am older, maybe even old, it seems a miracle. To find somebody whose company is an endless delight, who prompts one to be the best self one can be is an astonishment. To know one does the same for them is grace upon grace.

What I am trying to say is that I fell head over heels in love with Sophie and that is why I desire her. It was not a matter of deciding I wanted a woman and looking for one. And Sophie brings out the best in me. I find I am capable of a kindness, a consideration for others that is the best side of me. She makes me better. And that is how I found out I am not straight at all.

Call me naive

There is only one God. Or so I thought – go on, call me naive. Only one God, and all of our human ideas about God are flawed and fallible, though we people of faith do what we can to understand understand, to worship and to serve.

Judging from the outcry over Giles Goddard allowing Muslims to hold a prayer service in his church, you might be excused believing that Christians thought there were lots of Gods all in competition to get the good will and worship of human beings. We don’t. Of course we believe that our version of faith is the truest, and most helpful, but we do not, traditionally anyhow, believe that other faiths worship other gods. Muslims, in their turn, of course believe their version of faith is the most true, but that we, too, worship the one God.

Let me be perfectly plain. Calling for a good faithful man to be disciplined for recognising that there is only one God, and that we all try to serve him, makes Christians look foolish, ill informed and narrow minded. It stirs up ill will between the great faiths. It adds fuel to the Islamaphobia which is becoming an ever-more serious issue in our country, and it creates misunderstandings.

 

 

Frog Off!

It is a dark afternoon, and I have come indoors before finishing the afternoon round of animal care to report one of the most exciting milestones of the year. Gentle reader – we have frog off!

As I emerged form the stable with a barrow of muck I heard it again- the chain saw purr of a dozen male frogs, calling out from love and desire in my pond.

Now, however much bad weather follows, I know we have reached a point frim which we cannot go back. By tomorrow there will be frog-spawn. However ever many dreich days follow, it is spring.

a clear pure light

One of the most successful things I have done in this cottage – still after six years in the throes of restoration – was to restore the old wooden ceiling. When I did that, I found a nail near the door. Almost certainly the nail on which in the past the hurricane lamp was hung to be easily reached down when one was heading out of the door to grapple with a crisis. This January brought the usual storms and power cuts, and I have got another hurricane lamp to hang in the same spot. IMG_1320I was glad of it on Friday night when my hear torch packed up and refused to work at all. This was not a good moment for it to pick, because the geese were in the middle of the pond. I have been having fox trouble again. Foxes are beautiful and destructive. Also, because urban foxes are being dumped in the countryside in large numbers, currently they are a real problem. I have recently lost my gander to a fox, and the sorrow of his poor widow was pitiable. I was lucky enough to be offered a breeding pair of geese, and took them, offering every assurance that I now had a safe fox-resistant (little is fox proof) pen for the nights. And there they were, in the middle of the pond. And there I was, running round the edge, trying to persuade them to leave the pond and get into their pen. Well, actually, just to leave the pond. I was wonderfully well placed to see both the beauty of the hurricane lamp, with its gentle glow, and the down side of it. A very gentle glow.  I would have given a good deal for a nasty bright modern light to help persuade the geese. The trouble is, the pond is deeper than my wellies. Round to the left I went, and round to the right the geese. Down to the right I went and round to the left they went. I waded in as far as I dared. They went to the opposite bank. I splashed the water with a long stick, and they edged right up to the bank. then the water was half an inch away from the top of my wellies and a backed off. And with that the geese went back to the middle of the pond. This was repeated for an hour or more. Even outside ones wellies, the water chills the feet. I got more and more fed up. The geese remained unruffled. Finally, tired and exasperated, I made an error. The water came pouring into a wellie. That was it. I had little to lose. I set off across the pond, and the geese looked at me in horror. Actually it must have been very funny to look and I do have a weakness for comedy. Making people makes me happy. Those wretched geese did not even have the decency to laugh. They did however at least shuffle up the bank, and very shortly, into their proper pen. And I went back to the house, poured the water out of the wellies, stripped off my soaking wet jeans and socks and hung the lamp back on its antique nail