Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Away from it all (2)

Let's try again, here with a picture of the outside of Barfreston church. In fact, it is clear that the lesser arches on the inside would not have had apses for their altars.

To the left of the wheel window is a figure (now headless) of a man on horseback, reminiscent of similar figures found in many French churches, and many in the empire also - most famously at Bamberg Cathedral in Franconia.

This 'atmospheric' shot of the church of St Nicholas at Ash shows the weather during these few days. The sun was shining through a bright fog as it neared the close of the afternoon and I ended the day (and this post) in Sandwich, which claims to be the country'smost complete medieval town. Its days of prosperity are undeniably past as present day Sandwich does not actually occupy the full space within the old port's ancient walls. Still, well worth a visit and in the village of Worth, where I was staying I was really made to feel at home and welcome. That says a lot.

Away from it all

Away from it all in Kent, by the seaside, I must have missed all the ceremonies of the swearing in of president Obama and so much else that is happening in the world. However, a few days after getting back it began to seem that I had never been away. It doesn't take long to catch up on what's happening in the world.
On a very enjoyable break driving round the back roads and side roads and cart tracks of Kent I did, as always, come across some wonders to be seen.

First among them was the church at the tiny village of Barfreston - one of the most sumptuous Norman churches in the whole country. The interior is dominated by the great threefold triumphal arch. The two side arches may have contained apses, with their own altars. Both interior and exterior are dominated by a wealth of carving. The Normans may have tended to build fairly simple buildings from an architectural point of view compared to the Gothic ages, they decorated them with a wealth of almost baroque imagination. The wild carving on the tympanum over the main door is a masterpiece of Norman work influenced by either Celtic or perhaps more probably Scandinavian art. The central figure of Christ is seated as is customary, within a mandorla - but the chaotic swirlings of foliage around Him are not typical at all! Above Christ is the figure of a Bishop - presumably St Nicholas, to whom the church is dedicated.
For some reason, the blog won't let me post any more pictures here! I shall maybe put a couple more on later - if it's in a better frame of mind. The remarkable East end is dominated by the richly carved wheel window. Likr the tympanum, this was work where presumably the stone carvers were allowed to let their minds run riot - and they did have extrememly fertile imaginations - not only carving scenes such as the signs of the Zodiac and the labours of the months, but also such wonderful scenes as a bear playing a
harp while a human being dances to its tune!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year.
In the face of so much that is happening in the world we might be forgiven for asking: what is happy about it?
Our faith does not deny the evil that happens in the world. It does not demand that we ignore it. It assures us that God is in charge. And it is because of this that we have hope.
I cannot change much of what is done in the world. I cannot bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down together to talk. I cannot prevent one terrorist outrage. I cannot turn the hearts of children towards their parents, and of parents towards their children. I cannot prevent a mother and her boyfriend from killing a child. I cannot prevent a mother from arranging the kidnapping of her child for financial benefit.
But this does not mean that I am helpless.
In the face of all that is evil I express my own hope and confidence in the promises of God. And this is what brings me hope.

The fact of the Incarnation is a sign that there is hope in the world despite the incredible ammount of evil thst is to be found in it. There is hope precisely because God has come into the world. He does not simply permit this suffering, but He shares in it.

What, then, can I do. I can seek to make Christ more present in ky own life. I can seek to become more loving, more patient, more prayerful. This is what is needed. This is all that is needed.

If I become more prayerful then I will also become more generous, more tolerant, more patient. I will become a better and more faithful witness to the Gospel of Christ. And in this Year of Grace 2009 what more could I ask?