Monthly Archives: March 2010

Maundy Thursday and The April Fool

This year Maundy Thursday falls on April Fool’s Day, a coincidence that seems strangely resonant.

‘What Folly!’, Judas must have thought, as he watched the events of Holy Week unfold; it was foolish enough to have wasted the money wrapped up in that alabaster Jar that Mary broke, folly for Jesus to have provoked a scene at the temple and then withdrawn, failing to follow it through with a proper,  thoroughly planned rebellion, and now on this Thursday, the greatest folly of  all, to waste the chance of bloody insurrection with all this defeatist talk of his own body being broken, his own blood shed. Judas could see that this little movement he had joined with such hope was going nowhere. Its numbers already dwindling and its strangely passive leader was clearly headed for the gallows. What to do? What would be the wise course of action? Best to jump ship first before they all went down, best indeed to put some clear blue waters between himself and this crowd lest he be dragged down with them, best indeed to bring the whole foolish charade to an end as soon as possible. The authorities were bound to pick up this great fool anyway, bound to have informers, ‘If I don’t do it somebody else will”, thought Judas, and slipped out into the night.

So on that Maundy Thursday Judas left the April Fool to his folly, and seemed wise enough looking on from the distance on Friday, but hidden in the folly of the cross was a wisdom Judas had never guessed. ‘unless a greain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it bears no fruit, but if it dies it bears a rich harvest’ Jesus had said, and in utter trust He had made himself the seed of all humanity and cast himself and all of us once and for all into the rich ground of God’s eternal love.

Looking past Good Friday to that first Easter another wise thinker, anotherone who might have been a Judas but became instead a new creation, suddenly saw it all, and said to himself and to us:

“Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die”. He suddenly saw that what was sown in corruption is raised in glory, what was sown in weakness was raised in power. And so he wrote the words that should be read on this and every April feast of fools: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

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Filed under christianity, St. Edward's

Redemption Song

The Hope Players, the company with whom I did the Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, are beginning a new play called Redemption Song, written by Daniel Carlson and telling the story of the book of Ruth, from Naomi’s perspective. Daniel asked me to write a song for the play  which could be woven in and out of the performance or sung by the characters. The Song is now on my new cd Dancing Trough the Fire, under the title A Song for Ruth. You can hear it and/or download it by clicking on the cd icon on the right hand side of this blog.Here’s what I’ve written:

Redemption Song (the Story of Naomi)

Sing a song of sowing
Of carrying the seed
A song of hopeful planting
To meet a future need
Sing a song of letting go
Of falling to the ground
Of burying that feels like loss
Still waiting to be found

There are no songs of famine
For hunger has no voice
The poor must scavenge what they can
The rich are spoiled for choice
The stones of fear and anger
Will strike you from behind
For hunger hates the stranger
And cleaves to his own kind

Sing a song of exile
Of loneliness and loss
A song of broken bridges
That nobody can cross
A song of desperation
For words you understand
A song of fearful labour
On someone else’s land

Sing a song of marriage
The grace of bride and groom
The fruitful vine around the door
And joy within the room
A song of love and longing
For the children yet to be
A quiver-full of future hopes
Aimed at eternity

Sing a song of mourning
The shadows and the tombs
The bitterness of broken hearts
And disappointed wombs
Sing a song of empty words
And unexpressed despair
Of reaching out at midnight
For the one who isn’t there

Sing a song of waiting
Of weeping on the earth
A song of expectation
And longing for new birth
Sing a song of patience
Of watching through the night
Sing the hours before the dawn
And sing the coming light

Sing a song of harvest
Of one who bind the sheaves
And one who gleans along the edge
The good another leaves
Sing a song of winnowing
And taking into store
Of Barley heaped like glowing gold
Upon the threshing floor

Sing out before the Lord of Life
Your songs of joy and pain
Sing of the years the locusts ate
That cannot come again
Sing to Him your hopes and fears
Your tales of right and wrong
And He will make your voice a part
Of His Redemption Song

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Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems, Songs, Theology and Arts

Meeting Dante (1)

It is extraordinary how Dante, my close companion since I first started to read him in my late teens, keeps cropping up in my life. Take the last few weeks for instance. I had a random email from Robert Loch, headed ‘Dante Idea’, containing a proposal that a Dante retreat I had once given, and he had heard described, might be pitched as a TV programme and inviting me down to the Paramount, one of his London haunts, to discuss it. The meeting was arranged and I was sketching out ideas, thinking of ways we could use TV to convey the immediacy, the contemporary relevance of Dante’s journey, the way  he is mapping and exploring, not so much some imagined afterlife, but all the winding intricacies, the mysteries of the human heart. The way Dante’s journey through the circles of hell, the terraces of the holy mountain and the spheres of paradise could be mapped directly on to the contours of contemporary Britain; the stories that fill our papers and are told in our pubs.

My cogitations were interrupted by the arrival of the post; a plain brown package addressed to me; it contained, unexpected and unsolicited, a copy of a book called Meeting Dante by my friend Ingrid Soren, I was delighted to be given it, but even more so when I opened it and began to read. What an amazing book! I shall write a proper review of it later, (look out for Meeting Dante (2)) but it couldn’t have been more timely and helpful to me at that point. Like Dante’s poem, Ingrid’s book is multi-layered; its a travelogue of her journeys in Dante’s footsteps, it is a beautiful account of the poem itself but it is also (like Dantes poem) a love story; a searing personal account of the making and breaking of a relationship and how Dante helped her at every step to deal with the delights, the demands, and the sorrows of love. Every page sparkles with insight into the links between the Divine Comedy and contemporary life, I couldnt have asked for better inspiration for my London forray! I packed her book in my bag and headed for the paramount.

High above London, with a panoramic view vbiew of  its palaces and temples, its dark alleys, its corrupt banks and glorious museums, all its places of delight and desolation spread out below us, Robert and Mike Dicks and I began to plan our series on Dante’s contemporary journey and to map his places of the soul onto the real places we could see from thParamount’s panoramic view, finding connection after connection. Could we sell it? we wondered, could we liberate Dante from the ivory tower and set him walking the streets again, a compassionate guide for twenty-first century life? Would others see these connections too? Even as we wondering about that a woman who had been working away at a laptop in the corner, but also, I had noticed often looking up at us and listening, came over. She said “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I can’t contain myself any longer, I never thought I’d hear Dante’s name up here and I’m thrilled, I love Dante and I think of his work often in the midst of my own life.”

She turned out to be a well known and witty comedienne, star of a channel four series, but also, (on the quiet) a Dante scholar and enthusiast, just in the club by chance that day! I had a wonderful sense of providence, of pieces falling together and of Dante own poem so full of beautiful connections and imagined spaces in which the most unlikely people separated byt time space and language can still meet together and make something new of each others lives. I left London with the distinct feeling that the old Florentine was definitely on our side with this one!

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Filed under imagination, literature, Theology and Arts

A villanelle for certain villains

I have something on Dante to post soon, but so much intervenes. Meanwhile, until I can post “Meeting Dante”, and since the great Florentine was not averse to some sharp political poetry himself I’ll post this little piece I wrote as I watched the Chilcot enquiry, but it will stand too for all those politicians who shrug off the ‘collateral damage’ done by their folly

Advice to a politician

Bury the truth and lie down with a lie,
Dismiss the losers with a winning smile,
The dead are dead and cannot testify.

Hire a good brief to help you ‘clarify’
You’ve no regrets; regrets are not your style.
Bury the truth and lie down with a lie.

A few more headline grabs will get you by,
Always appear to go the extra mile,
The dead are dead and cannot testify.

Concede the odd ‘mistake’, contrive a sigh,
But wrap yourself in virtue all the while.
Bury the truth and lie down with a lie.

Most witnesses are dead, some you can buy,
Some can be lost in a ‘deleted file,’
The dead are dead and cannot testify.

The dreams may come, the screams that terrify…
They can be blocked with Prozac for a while.
Bury the truth, and lie down with a lie,
Until the dead arise and testify.

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Filed under Current affairs, literature, Poems