The Blessing of Home

After nearly seven weeks of travelling up and down the A40 and staying with delightful friends in Oxford while I underwent treatment at various hospitals, I am home for a while. I’m very tired and sore, so home is, first of all, somewhere I can rest. For me, that means, once the daily duty of prayer and reading is fulfilled and I have done my share of domestic tasks such as cooking and account-keeping, I can, with a quiet conscience, do nothing in particular. Our culture values doing to such an extent that doing nothing is seen as ‘wasting’ time, ‘wasting’ talent — being, in some measure, selfish. In truth, it is nothing of the sort. Doing nothing silences mind and heart to make them more receptive, more supple, more genuinely creative. It should also make us capable of greater generosity. I don’t mean the kind of generosity that others expect of us. (Anyone telephoning the monastery at the moment or asking me to do things for them is likely to be met with a polite ‘no’: I haven’t any spare energy.) I mean the kind of generosity that goes back to the roots of the word itself: a nobleness, a largeness, that flourishes best when we are at peace; and we are never so much at peace as when we are at home.

It is a truism of Christianity that ‘we have not here an abiding city’ and, for monks and nuns especially, we travel light, owning nothing of our own, our gaze fixed (most of the time) on the City that is to come. That doesn’t mean, however, any misprizing of our earthly home. Indeed, the Benedictine vow of stability is often intertwined with stabilitas loci, a sense of place, of standing firm. The blessing of home is not the comfort or beauty it provides but the assurance that here we have a place, somewhere we stand firm. Let us pray today for those many millions who have no home and do not enjoy the blessing we may take for granted.

I haven’t been blogging for obvious reasons and will not be online much for the next couple of weeks or so. Please don’t assume that because I tap out the occasional post here everything is back to normal. It will take a while for energy levels to recover. Thank you.


The Mirror of Love

Nostalgia is the most adult of emotions, and one of the trickiest to navigate. We can be inspired by the past or, more exactly, our version of the past, or we can be imprisoned by it. It can energize us or make us angry. Nostalgia is a kind of homesickness — and ‘home’, as we know, can be a good memory or a bad one, but it never lets us go. Our lives reflect the love and goodness we have experienced, or their opposite.

I wonder whether St Luke, whose feast we celebrate today and whose gospel has qualities we do not find in the other evangelists, had an unusually happy childhood. I have sometimes imagined him growing up among a host of sisters, indulged, teased and challenged by turns. Some of the interactions he records between Jesus and women have just that kind of friendly respect that men who are at ease with women display. His interest in Mary, too, suggests that he was fascinated by everything about Jesus and did not despise the family details.

Did St Luke grow up among girls? I don’t know, and my kind of speculation is historically inadmissable; but his gospel brings a warmth and humanity to the story of salvation that we need to remember. I am all for theology, liturgy, etc, etc; but we need to keep a lively sense of our home being not here but in heaven, from whence we await our Saviour, a Person, not an abstraction. We meet him every day in the faces of those we encounter. Do our faces mirror the love and respect Jesus has shown us? In other words, do we allow others to see Jesus clearly in us?