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As you set out to Ithaca

As you set out to Ithaca
Published on Tue, 28 Apr 2020 08:44
Vicar's Blog


Dear all

After quite a full day yesterday which seemed to become more stressful as it went on, Shanon and I tried to have a quiet and more relaxing evening, listening to music and watching a comedy on Netflix. But I went to bed quite wound up, and woke in the night, thinking and praying about the various tasks ahead. In that time of wakefulness I had a strong sense of this;  that it is very important, at this time, to remember what we have to offer one another. It is important to remember all that we have to give to one another. 

We are all golden, and  we are all loved, and we all know and can share love. I think we all need reassurance at the moment, but it is important to remember that the imperishable gift which we have to offer one another is the gift of love. I am speaking to myself as much to all of you. But I am taking heart, in these times where the way ahead feels on every level challenging, from the absolute groundedness which we all share. We are all part of the reality of a shared love which is the love of God in Jesus for all the world. 

None of us know the answers in this situation - we are all doing the best we can. My resolution for today is to try to offer that love, knowing that we are each trying to chart a new way, together and separately, through the unknown terrain ahead. I may not succeed, all the time, but I am sure that to move forward with hope is the best way to try to live. 

Georgie, last week, wrote at my request some paragraphs for this email, which feel very apposite. Here is what she wrote: 

"All the way to heaven is heavenbecause he said I am the Way."

I was once given a bookmark with this quotation from St.Catherine of Siena.   It's illustrated with bright bunting and balloons.  As an innate optimist with a tendency to walk only on the sunny side of the street, I love it.  It suits me to believe that all the way to heaven is marked by primary  colours and the smell of a party.  Among the gospel stories I treasure those about banquets and merrymaking and have a particular affection for the family at Bethany - the place where Jesus used to stay on his trips to Jerusalem, his home from home; a place of long, late evening meals - in my imagination, at least, a vine-clad courtyard catching the last of the evening rays,: a 'haven in sunny Palestine', Jesus, Martha, Mary and Lazarus - a relaxed gathering of old friends reunited.


While not wanting to entirely dispel my own fantasy, I know deep-down that it is not the whole story.  Catherine of Siena, like Teresa of Avila and so many  pillars of prayer, lived in troubled times and was certainly not an untroubled personality.  Her 'way to heaven' was by way of conflict and difficulty, illness and early death.  So it seems to me that her words must mean that God will teach us things more easily when we are fragile, vulnerable and more willing to lean into God's love.  And also that the journey through difficulties is indeed the Way.  One of my favourite poems is this one, a translation from the Greek writer Constantine Cavafy, in which the classical Island ofIthaca is the longed-for heaven/haven for Odysseus.

As you set out for Ithaca

hope your way is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Cyclops and Poseidon will not impede you if

.... you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.


Hope your way is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbours you're seeing for the first time;

may you stop at trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind-

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.


Keep Ithaca always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you're destined for.

But don't hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you're old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you've gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.


Ithaca gave you the marvellous journey.

Without her you wouldn't have set out.

......Ithaca won't have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you'll have understood by then what all these Ithacas mean.

Thank you, Georgie, for that. 

Practicalities: the login for the Rule of Life meeting tomorrow is here.  The meeting requires a password. Nicola is planning to write to everyone who has expressed an interest today - but if you don't hear from her and would like to join please let me know. 

There will be a Face to Faith meeting on Thursday at 6pm, and Lisa will write to all the Face to Faithers seeking your thoughts on what you'd like to do. A link to that will follow soon. 

I am attaching my sermon from Sunday, below and here 

Have a good day, and remember that you are loved. And we are not alone. 


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