THURSDAY THE FIRST OF DECEMBER, 2016
* NICHOLAS FERRAR *
Jesus, by your wounded feet,
guide me through this life.
Jesus, by your nailed hands,
use mine for deeds of love.
Jesus, by your pierced side,
cleanse my desires.
Jesus, by your crown of thorns,
destroy my pride.
Jesus, by your broken heart,
fill mine with love for you. Amen.
( Richard Crawshaw )
You died the hour you used to rise for prayer.
In that rich hush beneath all other sounds,
you rose at one and took the midnight air
rising and falling on the wings and rounds
of psalms and silence. The December stars
shine clear above the Giddings, promised light
for those who dwell in darkness. Morning stirs
the household. From the folds of sleep, the late
risers wake to find you gone, and pray
through pain and grief to bless your journey home;
those last glad steps in the right good old way
up to the door where Love will bid you welcome.
Love draws us too, towards your grave and haven,
we greet you at the very gate of Heaven.
( Malcolm Guite )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
Nicholas Ferrar: deacon, spiritual explorer
Today Saint Laika’s remembers Nicholas Ferrar, the founder of one of the most remarkable experiments in Christian community living in the history of Anglicanism. An English academic, courtier and businessman, he gave up his successful careers, was ordained a deacon and retreated with his extended family to the manor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, where they lived in community.
Nicholas Ferrar was born in London on the twenty-second of February 1593. His family was wealthy, having gotten involved in the London Virginia Company, which oversaw the commerce and trade with the Virginia Colony in North America. He had an aptitude for learning. He was brought up in a devout Anglican home. After college, at what was then Clare Hall in Cambridge, Nicholas travelled to Europe, taking a position as a courtier to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. When he left her service he continued to travel for a while before returning to England in 1618. He set to work as one of the directors of the Virginia Colony, but when the Company was forced to dissolve in 1624, Nicholas made a life-changing decision.
At the age of thirty-three, Nicholas abandoned his successful political and commercial career to move to found a community of prayer. He bought the deserted manor and village of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, a few miles off the Great North Road, with the support of his mother, Mary Ferrar, and his brother John.
Mary Ferrar and the extended family and household (about thirty to forty people) moved into the manor house, and Nicholas became the leader and spiritual director of the community. In 1626 he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England.
In contemporary Anglican life, religious communities are fairly common, but this was two hundred years before the Oxford Movement would attempt to restore pre-reformation practices to the English church. The offices of morning and evening Prayer are two of the greatest contributions of the Anglican Church to the English language and Ferrar’s community prayed them each day. Someone from the family was engaged in prayer continuously, and so the entire "Book of Psalms" was prayed in the course of each day.
They fasted with great rigour, and in other ways embraced voluntary poverty, so that they might have as much money as possible for the relief of the poor. They also looked after the health and education of the local children. Ferrar died on the fourth of December, 1645. Civil unrest in England brought the Puritans to power. The king was killed and Oliver Cromwell ruled as regent. Unfortunately, the Puritans broke up the community shortly after Ferrar’s death, and their experiment in Anglican community came to an end.
Scripture. In the "Letter to Galatians," chapter six, verses nine and ten we read:
"So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith."
... for peace in the world.
... for those whose vocation is to pray for the world.
... for non-monastic Christian religious communities.
... for the homeless.
... for those who have died and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
From "Little Gidding" by T. S. Eliot:
Midwinter spring is its own season
sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
the brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
in windless cold that is the heart's heat,
reflecting in a watery mirror
a glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
in the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
the soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
but not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
of snow, a bloom more sudden
than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable Zero summer?
If you came this way,
taking the route you would be likely to take
from the place you would be likely to come from,
if you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
white again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
if you came at night like a broken king,
if you came by day not knowing what you came for,
it would be the same, when you leave the rough road
and turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
and the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
is only a shell, a husk of meaning
from which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
if at all. Either you had no purpose
or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
and is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,
or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city -
but this is the nearest, in place and time,
now and in England.
If you came this way,
taking any route, starting from anywhere,
at any time or at any season,
it would always be the same: you would have to put off
sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
or carry report. You are here to kneel
where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
than an order of words, the conscious occupation
of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
and what the dead had no speech for, when living,
they can tell you, being dead: the communication
of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
is England and nowhere. Never and always.
Lord God, make us so reflect your perfect love; that, with your deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our saviour and lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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