Out by one second

Another postcard from the land of grief

There comes a point when living in a foreign country where your description of how long you have been there changes. There comes a point where you stop referring to weeks, or even months – and say instead the year in which you moved there.

In one sense, the passing of a calendar year is an artificial construct – when the clocks tick over from 23:59 to 00.01 in a few hours’ time the difference is no more than a matter of minutes. In another sense – it is all the difference in the world. We humans have a need to divide up time in order to make sense of it. Hours, moments, months and years are the cataloguing system in our mental library and we cannot do without them.

From 00:01 tomorrow, it will be last year that I moved to this foreign country. From 00:01 it will be last year that I last held her hand, heard her voice or saw her smile. From 00:01 it will be last year that she died.  In truth, those things will be no further from me than they are right now – but they may well feel it.

Right now, my faith in a God who was yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow matters more than ever.

‘Not wanted on voyage’

365 Days

Another postcard from the land of grief

If I am going to be living in this foreign land for some time, then I shall need a calendar. In fact, I already have two – one fat and one thin. The days and dates here are the same as anywhere. There are 365 of them, and they will roll from Spring, to Summer, to Autumn, to Winter, with no respect nor pause for sorrow.

Living in a foreign land, though, I am likely to find that the calendar  ‘milestones’ are different – a bit like those foreign bank holidays which commemorate some political figure of whom you have never heard.

Unmarked on any calendar which I can buy here are the anniversaries marked in the heart. They are the anniversaries of engagement, of holidays, of moving here or starting there …and even of diagnoses. I could mark these on any calendar in any colour – red, black or blue, but in truth they are marked indelibly on the heart.

More important, then, to mark some new things on the new calendars. I need to write there the things that are done in this foreign land. Where will I go? What dates will I circle with new memories for the calendars of 2019 and beyond? Right now, that particular pen is too heavy to pick up. The time will come, though, I am sure.  Back where I used to live, I learnt a song when I first embarked on the journey of faith ‘I know who holds the future, and he’ll guide me with his hand’. 

I might just hum it to myself as I fix the calendars up…

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Silent night

Another postcard from the land of grief

They celebrate Christmas here too, it would seem – just as they did in the place where I used to live. To find old traditions here is reassuring. The sound of familiar carols is good –  like a snatch of your mother tongue heard on a foreign street. Old tastes and smells are here too – as if imported effortlessly across the border. When savoured, though – they turn out to be not quite as you thought. Sweet tastes turn bitter on the tongue here, and warming scents can chill the heart.  In the midst of celebrating the presence, an absence stands out all the more. Chirpy melodies sound shrill, as if played on a strange instrument for which they were not written.

And yet, here too I find the fragile baby – all but alone in a place where he scarcely belongs. He is loved, of course – even adored. He is cared for and nurtured – but he does not belong. This is a foreign place, to which he was propelled by love.

On this silent night, where no greeting can be exchanged, I am grateful for the presence of one who did not belong.

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

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The promises of God stand above us, more valid than the stars and more effective than the sun

The promises of God stand above us, more valid than the stars and more effective than the sun

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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Single ticket

Another postcard from the land of grief

As I continue to live in this new land of grief, I am struck by the parallels with other times when I have stayed away from home. At first, you can be so taken with the novelty of what you see around you, that the country you have left behind seems shabby, or dull, or uninteresting by comparison. Stay a little longer, and some of the quirks of what you have left behind assume a kind of rosy glow, making you curious to sample them once again. Stay longer still, and the limitations of the new place may become rather more annoying than the ones you have left behind. In short, it is time to go back.

The comparison is not altogether fair, since the travels I describe above have always been ones I have chosen to undertake. Not so on this occasion. Furthermore, going back is not an option. I cannot go back to where I used to live – my ticket was one way. That is not to say that I am stuck here though. There is a path – but it lies ahead, rather than behind. I have not been here long enough to discern it yet- but I know that it is ‘over there’ in Another Place.

Yesterday I paid a visit to Anthony Gormley’s artwork of the same name – a place I had last visited with Fiona. The statues still stand there – stock still and staring out to sea. Sometimes they are hidden, sometimes they stand tall – but always they turn their steely gaze to another place.

I was especially struck by the figure below. The waves were lapping at his chest, and all but engulfing him. He is unmoved though – and he continues to look to Another Place. I am hoping that I can do the same…

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CLICK for full size

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Glimmers of advent hope

 

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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