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post03-rsthomas

Now that my health seems up to doing things without my feeling as though a ten ton truck has hit me after the slightest exertion, I’ve told Chalcedon and Neo that they can stand down from their ‘Saturday Jess’ duties. I’d like to thank them, not least Neo who delved through the back posts to great effect, and also Steve Brown, whose idea it was. I found it interesting to read, because it was almost like reading what someone else had written. They charted an odd trajectory. When I started AATW, a few of the idiots who had trolled me elsewhere tried to post comments saying that it was obvious where it was going – at some point there would be an announcement that I had become a Roman Catholic. As early though, as July of 2012 (only a few months after I started) I set up camp on what I called Mt Nebo – where I’ve remained.

My Anglicanism is of the Catholic variety, and where I worship we kneel at the altar and receive communion on the tongue, we pray the Rosary, and on Thursdays we have an hour’s eucharistic adoration; my priest understands my Marian veneration and shares it. I have not been given the signal to cross the Tiber, and so I remain in Canterbury, fully acknowledging everything we have inherited from the first Roman mission of St Augustine, but also taking on board the older, Celtic Christianity which came here under the Romans, and the insights and gifts of the Reformers. Without George Herbert, John Keble, T.S. Eliot and R.S. Thomas, my life would be infinitely the poorer, and in their lines I trace the spirit which moves the Anglicanism of my heart – and my faith is one of the heart, as well as the head. We pray, and we might expect an answer, after all it is a conversation with God, but sometimes it seems otherwise, as answer comes there none. As a Welsh Anglican, I find it is R.S. Thomas who describes this best for me in his poem, Nuclear:

“It’s not that he can’t speak;
who created languages
but God? Nor that he won’t;
to say that is to imply
malice. It is just that
he doesn’t, or does so at times
when we are not listening, in
ways we have yet to recognise
as speech”

In one of his early poems, the beautiful and moving In a country Church, RST describes perfectly what can happen when you open yourself to that realisation – that God speaks to us in ways we need to become attuned to:

To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.

Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body.

Who could see love in that broken and battered body on the bloody Cross? Who would have looked to such a place for redemption? Yet that is what God is telling us, that is where we must look, there is no other place.

The best reflection on my own journey as a Christian is this from RST’s Pilgrimages:

It is I
who ask. Was the pilgrimage
I made to come to my own
self, to learn that in times
like these and for one like me
God will never be plain and
out there, but dark rather and
inexplicable, as though he were in here?

The answer God gives to the question of man’s suffering takes the form of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

And for those who want to her RST reading one of his great poems which says so much about my homeland, here’s a treat.

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