Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sharing my body, my soul, my store - a monumental hopeI

There is a monument in the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary [!] at Harlton in Cambridgeshire to a saint of God, Thomas Fryer. The details are easily accessed elsewhere, and there is a picture of the monument below. What particularly caught my eye was the English poem that commends Thomas' piety:

Incloisterd in these piles of stone
The reliques of this Fryer rest,
Whose better part to heaven's gone;
The poore mans bowels were his chest.
And 'mongst these three: grave, heaven, poore,
He shard his corps, his soule, his store.

Holiness is an elusive thing, but I aspire to the values expressed here.

First, I long to be well-prepared for death now, that I may fully live the rest of my life here on earth, in gladness, in gratitude, alert for the moments, opportunities and revelations of each day. I long, in other words, to 'share my corpse with the grave.' I wish to be reconciled to Sister Death [St Francis' words] and to know that death no longer has any sting for those who are in Christ.

Then, I long to be heavenward bound. I do not like the inherent dualism implied by the use of the word 'soul' here, but the Fryers were recusants, Catholics and crypto-Catholics in a Protestant Elizabethan England. The language is the language of medieval theology, but there is a deep truth embedded in it, that the 'true and complete me' that I am is designed for eternity with God. I will find no rest until I find my rest in him. So, as I explored at great length in my PhD, my life on this earth is exilic, and the OT exilic writers deserve much more attention as spiritual guides in today's church, often far too earth-bound.

Finally, I long to share my store with the poor, perhaps the simplest, clearest and most challenging of all. I will die without any hard work on my part. I will inherit heavenly life through Christ's hard work on the cross. But for now, my work is to share all that I am, and all that I have. Today, then, I pray for the grace to be open, hospitable, aware and generous with those who by accident of life and circumstance, are today's neighbours. May the same be true for you.


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