May is my favourite month of the year. I love the tulips, the deep blue of the bluebells, the candles on the horse chestnut trees and, later in the month, the scuds of blossom on the hawthorn bushes. Even the cuckoo has been calling.
There is a joy and exuberance in the natural world: a celebration of growth and new life. To my way of thinking, no one expressed this better than the Victorian poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring – When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
Hopkins was a Jesuit priest and for him the natural world was sacramental and had meaning. Therefore, the beauty of spring was an echo of what God originally intended for the world, before human beings spoilt it.
But spring was also a reminder that a loving God had not abandoned his creation. As he wrote in another poem, And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
This ‘freshness’, this new life evident all around us, is the work of the Holy Spirit, who is often portrayed as a bird, a dove. As Hopkins puts it, Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
But it is not just the natural world where God’s Spirit is at work. Last week Christian Churches celebrated Pentecost and remembered God’s gift of his Holy Spirit to his people.
With the Spirit comes the promise that God can give us new life; ‘Spring’, as it were, can come into our lives. There is no need for our lives just to be bleak and pointless, even if our circumstances are difficult.
At St Mary Magdalene, Lyminster, we are celebrating being back in our medieval church after ten months of restoration to the medieval roof. Please do visit us.
Our prayer is that it will indeed be a place where God’s Holy Spirit broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings, and that visitors may find peace, restoration and new life there.
An Icon at Pentecost
Churches in Littlehampton came together recently for a service to celebrate the birthday of the Church at Pentecost. At the event, held this year in St Mary’s Church, a new religious picture was displayed for the first time – an icon of Our Lady of Littlehampton. This icon of the Virgin holding the Christ child was painted locally by Sister Gillian Mary, a nun who lives in Shoreham. If you look carefully, you will be able to see the sea and the familiar lighthouse. Arrangements have yet to be made for the icon to be permanently displayed.
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