Tag Archives: joy


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.


(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.


It’s time – for smiles, joy, love.

It is the smiling faces I love. I can only too clearly remember when the faces were not smiling. I remember my Uncle Alan, whose life was totally messed up by the fact he was gay. To be gay was to be guilty of a crime, or it was if you tried to love another person. Alan was never caught, never found guilty of love, but he internalised the guilt and it dogged and harassed him. It did not stop him being there at all the great family events, smiling, engaging. His charm, his caring for a little girl, to whom he was not, in fact, related, because he was an Uncle only by virtue of being my father’s friend, ensured that from my first years I had a face to put to the word ‘homosexual’. That face was not a face of fear, of disgust, but a happy smiling family face. I got lucky there.

It has been a very long road for society from there, from the 1950s, to here, to today. Today the Equality Network launch their ‘It’s Time’ video. Because although it has taken society about sixty years to get there, now so many happy smiling faces are ready to welcome the legislation for Equal Marriage.

They are faces of love, of joy, of caring. I count myself incredibly lucky that some of those faces I also know. They belong to happy, strong, caring people I know. I wish we were completely there. I wish everybody in my church was as supportive of Equal Marriage as the faces in the video and the bloggers blogging on it today. Actually, I cannot seriously think why they are not – usually in my expereince it is fear. Perhaps I will blog about that soon. But not today – today must belong to the smiles, to the love. It is time for that.


It is one of the definitive points of the year for me – the most distinctive sound of, well, not quite spring, but pre-spring. A moment from which there is no turning back, on the path to spring, but not quite spring. It usually comes in February or March, and if March then in very early March.

It is the moment I first hear the mating call of the male frogs, or as I privately call it, frog-off.  This year I heard it for the first time last night – 11 April.  that is about a month late. Still, it is a happy sound, a positive sound. It is the most joyful of sounds.

Equal marriage! Rejoice!

Scotland is to have equal marriage – not just equal civil marriage, but religious faith marriage for those who want it too.  And I am dancing on the head of a pin with innumerable angels.  For those who need a translating: I am very pleased and giving thanks to God.

Why?   Firstly because the slur implied  by  insisting that same-sex marriages were some how different-and-inferior and only Civil Unions is now to be wiped away.  Justice will be done and love acknowledged.

Secondly because I think in a perverted and back-handed way the opponents of equal marriage are right.  This new acknowledgement does change things, or rather it acknowledges a change which took place a long time ago.  It shifts the understanding of marriage from its being about gender-roles to its being about love between equals.  Far from regretting this, I rejoice in it.

I actually think this change was begun before the Victorian period, and pretty much complete in the early to mid 20th c. – but in as far as some in society have struggled to recognise it, I am delighted to see it even more openly acknowledged.

And yes there will be troubles and tantrums ahead in the Christian denominations, and a great need for inspired and courageous and calm resolute leadership.  But that is for tomorrow.  For tonight – rejoicing.

Birth and copulation and death

First death. Both of the smaller lambs died. They appeared to be making splendid progress, and then, suddenly, between one feed and the next, they were dead. Not both on the same day, but a week apart. Probably an infectious disease, but that is only speculation as to why. I rather pour my heart into lambs, devoting myself to seeing they thrive, and the deaths hit me hard.

But if you live as I do with many animals, you become accustomed to deaths. I don;t think the pain of it is any less, but you learn how to deal most effectively with the pain. You have any number of strategies in place to keep yourself going until the sorrow, until the sharp ache, fades away a bit. And so I answered kind friends with, ‘Yes, I’ll be fine,’ which is not at all the same thing as ‘No, I don’t feel it.’

And there are funny things to lighten the load. I surprised my gander. I have always wondered if he knew about copulation. Then one day I walked around the corner and found him enjoying lawful congress with his own wife. He was mortified, and fell slowly off sideways. Not from a sense of sexual shame, but because he had had to let his defences down – he had made himself and her vulnerable to attack, since a gander can in fact only think about one thing at a time, especially if the one thing is sex. But this year I do have a little hope for the hatching of eggs.

And birth: while I was at work, Bernadette safely delivered herself of a huge tup lamb. When I saw the size of him I was astonished that he had survived birth, but Bernadette was always a most calm and sensible sheep. Her son is not. He has a regrettable tendency to get on the other side of the fence to her and to be unable to get back. After three occasions, I have finally evolved a strategy which enables them to be reunited, and will, I believe, in future enable the whole thing to be done in about twenty minutes. To date the record is and hour and a half, most of it with me moving as fast as my legs and lungs allow. I have not had occasion to use the new treadmill yet.


After the night of giddy exhilaration when I realised I had an owl back in the owl box, I have been up and down over the owls, cursing myself for getting so emotional over things I can do little to influence.

I heard the female calling from her box, and hoped I had a pair of owls. The next morning I saw a female barn owl. That night there was total silence. No owl. Not nowhere. Despair.

Two owl-less days. Then a single owl sighted but little or no owl noise. Owls are silent fliers, but highly sociable with their mates. Where you have two owls they chat a lot, in the case of barn owls, in very breathy voices. I saw the female owl several times.

Sadly, I was forced to the conclusion that I had just one owl here, a female, who had a box and no mate.

Then on Wednesday night, I heard a great deal of owl noise. I stopped, froze, more like, and listened. Two owls in their favourite trees, ones which give a good look-out. An owl repeatedly flying into and out of the owl box, and back to the trees and into the owl box. Later in the evening, two owls, hunting, calling to each other. I think, indeed I am sure, that my female has found her mate.

The long journey to understanding

The story of Jacob is every bit as beautifully written as that of Abraham, and even more subtly. Jacob is the younger of a pair of twins, and he deeply resents the fact that his brother is to inherit. With the help of his mother, he cheats his brother out of his inheritance. His brother is furious and Jacob runs for his life. Alone and sad, he lies down to sleep. He dreams that he is next to a ladder, and angels are climbing up and down it, to where God (and once again, it is God) is enjoying the cool of the roof of the world, just like a rich town dweller with his summer room on the roof of the house to catch the breezes. Jacob is comforted to know that this world connects with God’s. He goes on his way to find his uncle, where the trickster is tricked. He works for seven years to earn the woman he loves, and finds he has been married to her sister. It takes another seven years to earn his true love, and then he finds that being married to sisters, jealous and competitive, is not all it is cracked up to be.
When he has worked his way to a fine family, and is rich in flocks and herds, he sets off home. He is almost there, very near the place of his dream of ladder and angels, when he hears his brother, the brother he wronged, is coming looking for him. He trusts in his brother’s mercy to women and children, and also in his brother’s desire to break Jacob’s neck before wrecking vengeance on anybody else.
Once again, he is alone and afraid, just much older and with more to lose. He goes into the wadi. It is night. A stranger comes and wrestles with him. The stranger can hardly get the better of Jacob, until he puts out Jacob’s hip. Dawn is coming, and beginning to guess who the stranger is, Jacob demands his name, and a blessing from him. He gets the blessing, but rather than telling his own name, the stranger re-names Jacob ‘Israel’ which means ‘Strives with God’. Then the stranger goes, and Jacob calls the place ‘The face of God’ for he knows with whom he has fought.
See how Jacob’s understanding of God has grown: no longer a rich man sitting on his roof enjoying the air, now he is a person who is in the depths of a ravine, wrestling in the water and mud. It is a huge leap in understanding. Yet the most astonishing thing, the apex of the story is still to come.
The wronged brother Esau arrives. He is a much bigger man than Jacob has given him credit for being. Jacob starts off with propitiatory bowing, but Esau, the disinherited, wronged Esau, falls on his neck, weeping and embracing him. And then Jacob , who has spend the night with God, who glimpsed the face of God in the half light before dawn, Jacob says to the brother he has wronged: ‘Seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.’
Each time I get to this point I sit back and consider how astonishing this insight is. I suppose it is not so very old. Depending on which theory you follow, it might belong to about the time of the Buddha, of Confucius, of the wonderful religious and creative flowering that still amazes with its depth and insight. It strikes me that this particular story equals most others. It is a deep creative story of a man learning to see ever deeper where he may find God: close to earth, in a desperate struggle in its darkest places, where he finds a God he can neither beat or be beaten by, and then, not in the faces of those who have wronged him, but in a harder place, the hardest place. He sees God is the person he has wronged. And this is the part of the Bible I am so often told is full of a God of wrath.

The first night of spring

And how, you ask, do I know? Is it beautifully sunny weather? Or are the skies full of butterflies? Do I now return from a ride dry and with warm toes? No.

Nor, except by logical extension, am I at all sure I have had the first day of spring. But the first night – yes.

Last night, as soon as I set foot out of doors I heard them. A low sound like a rubber engine, if you can imagine such a thing. Or a chain-saw made wholly of silicone, running on stand-by. It had not been there the night before, or the night before that. I am always about at night, and up to now there has been dead silence.

The pond was full of it -both water troughs were full of it. It echoed out of the bog, quite literally left, right and centre. The frogs are back. They have woken up, and they want company – they want sex.

And so the spring kicks off – and I rejoice.

Introverts in conversation

Outside there is a moon, rising huge over the trees. The trees are bare now, ‘inscapes’ against an indigo sky, introverts wrapped in conversation with themselves. The shapes of the ponies are just visible as they stand on the bank in the warm night, still autumn though November. In utter silence, the lady barn owl passed overhead.

The nearest street lights, though I regret them, are four miles away. The most clearly visible, eight miles. Every so often traffic hums, but it is not as loud as the sounds of the ponies cropping the grass.

I have been away for a week, dog-sitting and house-sitting in warmth and comfort, luxury even. It is the nights here that I miss most.

In blessing, I will bless you.

So it was for once a beautiful morning, and I needed silence as I drove to work, needed silence for something. And I drove along happily, doing – something. At first I was not quite sure what that something was. I mean, I had a shrewd idea it was something prayerful, and active. It took a bit of careful self ovservation, but in the end I caught myself out. I was looking at the hedgerows and doing something. Loving them, certainly but … ah, I was blessing them.

Blessing is something the modern church has made a somewhat circumscribed activity, and I can see why. It is very powerful. It would be highly inappropriate to have people blessing other people if those people were doing really bad things, and the pressure might sometimes be on to do just that. As a result, the laity are no longer much encouraged to think of blessing. (They used to do it: parents used to bless children, masters, servants, and farmers, fields and trees. Pretty much stopped now. The only thing the lay still are encouraged to bless is meals and diners.) But it is a beautiful thing to do, blessing.

And I was doing it before I realised it. I was driving along, calling down all the good things God is and offers on the hogweed, the last-blooming dog roses, the chaffinches and goldfinches and dunnocks in flight.

It was quite lovely, despite the ever-present heart-ache of transience and death. I have both been blessed, and offered blessings (in another denomination to my current one, with different rules). It always moves me profoundly, which ever side I find myself on, perhaps because it can be given or received, but not, as it were, self-inflicted. It is always a gift, God’s sheer grace in action.

I think, I hope, the circumscription of the church does not extend to offering blessing to the non-human world. I equally hope we could come to think a little more about blessing, because it is not thanksgiving, nor yet intercession, though it has elements of both. Also,like all prayer, it contains a promise: I have blessed you in God’s name, and now I am bound to act out towards you his love and protection. Blessing is a thing in itself, which is why I love the old Hebrew format which offers intensification as explanation: ‘In blessing, I will bless you.’