The Land of the Living

“He’s no longer in the land of the living,” we say with great solemnity as we pronounce that our friend has fallen asleep on the sofa. It’s a phrase we use fairly commonly, either to mean prosaically, “they’re dead”—which is actually uncommon because we prefer cleaner euphemisms that hide the reality entirely—or to refer to… Continue reading The Land of the Living

High and Lifted Up

Jesus hung on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, dying. To us, a detail that we can perhaps use poetically but incidental among the whole. To the Church Fathers, however, an important point to understand the cross. When St Athanasius is exploring why God became Man in his famous On the Incarnation, he devotes… Continue reading High and Lifted Up

We Did Not Build the Fortress

The Christian life feels precarious, sometimes. Do you feel like that? We’ve all seen dear brothers and sisters who we thought were following Jesus wholeheartedly—and perhaps they were—disappear from the scene and seem to abandon their faith. Putting aside how we should read these occurrences it can make us feel like we’re one step away… Continue reading We Did Not Build the Fortress

Burial is Hopeful

A couple of weeks ago we were at a wedding. We were invited to the evening but not the reception, so we’d brought a few sausage rolls and a pack of crisps for lunch and went looking for somewhere to eat it before we went on to the afternoon activities we’d planned—exploring the Cotswolds in… Continue reading Burial is Hopeful

The O Antiphons

In the western liturgical traditions the last seven days of advent include singing these seven chants—they would be largely unknown to churches like mine whose hymnody owes more to Hillsong than ancient Latin verse. Except, I bet you recognise them. They’re the content of the only advent hymn most of us know, O Come O… Continue reading The O Antiphons

Advent begins in the dark

Advent started yesterday, on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Most of us, if we observe advent at all will start on Wednesday with the opening of our calendars on the first of December. We consider it our three and a half week countdown to Christmas. Which is all well and good, preparing for feasts makes… Continue reading Advent begins in the dark

In defence of wonder

We live in nihilistic days. We live in quotidian days. Or, in more familiar English: we live in days that are both humdrum and meaningless. The days blur into each other. We go to our workplace; we do the tasks that our employer has assigned to us; we return to our homes to relax and… Continue reading In defence of wonder

The edge of the sea

The music swells, the symphony approaches its glorious end. You’re swept up in the majestic writing and the promise of what is to come. You’re noticing the intricate detail and the way the rest of the story is being recapitulated here at the eventual end. There is a new heaven. Wonder of wonders. There is… Continue reading The edge of the sea

Golden Hour

The sky was beautiful tonight. There was light snowfall, a little snow on the ground, and heavy grey clouds. Then, just before the sun set, in what photographers call “the golden hour”, the sky was suffused with light for around five minutes. The trees looked like they were lit from within by holy fire. It… Continue reading Golden Hour