Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Riots and Change.

Henry IV Part I offers the reader an unquiet time of festivity and order in a state of flux. Spurred on by the socio political events engineered by Hal at Falstaff's feast, the Prince tries to use the undercurrent of public awareness of the government's funding of festivals to disrupt the flux of history and expectation by becoming King. The difference between riot and revolution and feasting and drinking is taken to the knife edge where it still finds home in our modern times. Hal underlines the need for recognisable change when he says

'If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes.'

We could read this passage as his emerging from the chrysalis as youthful rogue to glorious King as well we might, but it also has echoes of the 'wheel of fire' of Lear, to which we are bound, spending our days on a circuit of events which we predict by association but often fail to grasp in essence. So at this time of year, we lurch from feast to feast, Ascension, the Mary Riot at Walsingham (or the National Pilgrimage, chacun a son gout), Pentecost, Trinity and finally the glories of Corpus Christi. The beauty of the Ascension when each year I stress the final action by the corporeal body of Christ on Earth as He ascended - He blessed them, as He disappeared from view he used his final act to care for His people. He ascended with his wounds as well - this is always worth pointing out, He takes His wounds and our wounds to the heart of God. The enormous assertion of the Ascension is that He takes broken humanity to the heart of the Triune God.

This means that we have something to say to the people of the world who are broken and tormented and who hope and yearn for a better future. We say that Christ has gone up, taking your wounds with Him, with His wounds by which we have been healed. At the festivals and at Walsingham, we have something to say, at the moments when the festivals boil over to near riot in anger and upset at the way things have gone, or in the moments of complete surrender to God which is when our hearts are at peace, as we bring our brokenness to Him who received His Son in glory, but with hands and side pierced. At those moments, we say that He truly knows our sorrows and He has taken them to the Father. It is one of the most enormous assertions of all time and the peace it brings is something which I think sustains us all at this time of flux in the Church - that He knows and that He still calls us through the reeds to this place, at this time, in this way. Blessed be God in the festivals and in the famine. Blessed be God in the still times and in the times of change and unexpected flux. As we look to our wounds, North Korea is detonating nuclear bombs and the Church is called upon, more than ever, to emulate Christ, using every possibility to impart His peace.

So as I prepare for Pentecost in the top picture and drive out for a country walk and pass this disturbing boozer offering 'discount booze', I wonder how to best tell of the peace of Christ in this most peculiar context in which I find myself. Faithfully, I hope and pray and for that I ask your prayers as well, especially over the next few weeks and months.

And the walk, over part of the pennines, was rewarding. I followed the old horse path which cotton was transported over the mountains hundreds of years ago for a little while before the fifty mile tunnel was built which ends in Worsley. I cannot imagine beginning to dig a fifty mile tunnel, but it must seem as hopeless as some of our modern predicaments.

The road, though, goes ever on, with many hills, dales and smoky towns before it ends. Like the men who saw Jesus ascending, we too are called to snap out of it, to stop staring into heaven, to return to the towns and villages at the end of our encounters with the divine and to get on with the opus dei.