Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Approaching my own death

Jill and I read Malcolm Guite's poem 'Westward' this morning in prayer, and were struck by the final words: "We watch the sunset, but we tread the dawn." Then, praying Psalm 90, my mind was drawn towards my approaching 70th birthday, and the clich├ęd words: "The days of our life are three score years and ten, or if our strength endures, even four score." I hope that it doesn't sound morbid to say that I often now think about my approaching death, which I want to grasp well. But it meant that 'watching the sunset' hinted to me - as I'm sure Malcolm intends - that watching for my own death, watching, if you like, for the fading of the light, is a good and blessed thing to do.

So of course is 'treading the dawn' or 'walking in the way of the resurrection'. Gerald Manley Hopkins puts it like this:

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs.

I think that Malcolm Guite must have had this in his mind when he wrote his sonnet. But whether he knew it or not, here I now am, rooted in the present, reaching towards the future with curiosity and with some trepidation, delighting in the mixture of darkness and light that makes up our experience of faith. The accompanying photograph was taken from our balcony in South Africa, probably at the end of a thunderstorm, but it too has that blend of light and darkness, of smudge and freshness, which makes up the rough stuff of life tinged with the glory and compassion of God.

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