Chelmsford Cathedral
Growing in Faith

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Reflections for this week from Canon Imogen Nay.  

Scripture Readings Ascension Day

Acts 1.1-11
Ephesians 1.15-end
Luke 24.44-end


Risen Christ,
you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven:
help us to seek and serve you,
that we may join you at the Father's side,
where you reign with the Spirit in glory,
now and for ever. Amen 


Lightenings viii

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’

The abbot said, ‘unless we help him.’ So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.

Seamus Heaney – Selected Poems by Seamus Heaney
From “Seeing Things”, 1991

Seamus Heaney's poem turns the story of the Ascension, for me, upside down. I like that because it makes me think differently, a bit askance, at what we have received. We are accustomed to hearing from stories in the Old Testament that no man can look at God and live: Moses has to cover his face, God has to hide his glory, there are clouds and cliffs, for instance. But this poem places our world as the alien world, into which a hapless other happens to fall, by mischance and accident, and in which he cannot live: 'This man can't bear out life down here and will drown'.

Of course this poem is not a poem about the Ascension, but, nonetheless, it makes me wonder about what it means to be 'at home' and the connotations of that word. The visitor was not meant to be in the world of the monks, he could not survive there. We are not accustomed, perhaps, to thinking about how our world has been crafted in every tiny detail to be the perfect home for us. Echoes of dualism that have unhelpfully infiltrated our Christian thinking have sometimes encouraged us to reject the material in favour of the spirit.


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