Monday, 15 March 2010

John Wesley, wistfulness and Cardinal Newman


“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans”.  Thus wrote John Wesley about his experience on 24th May 1738 when he attended a meeting of a Moravian Society in London, a meeting at which his “heart was strangely warmed” to know that Christ had died for him.

This morning, I went somewhat unwillingly to an Episcopal Parish Church (which shall be nameless) here in Sarasota.  My “unwillingness” was not because of the event (a funeral), but because this particular parish Church is entirely unfriendly towards God’s gay and lesbian children, and because this parish church will not allow the ministry of my sister priests.

I’ve been known to say that I would never lighten the doors of this place because of its opposition to women priests.

(I like to think that I do not darken the doors of any place, but that I lighten them!!)

But I was there for a funeral.  I did not know the women who had died.  But I know and respect her husband who is one of the finest and most consistent volunteers at Resurrection House.  I was at the Funeral service to pray, and to let this man know that I could try to share his grief.

The service used “traditional” ( i.e. 16th Century) English.  That was alright with me for I understand that prayer can be in any language under heaven.

But the Priest read the prayers with no more enthusiasm, verve or sense of conviction than he would have expressed whilst reading the ‘phone book.  It “felt” as if he were saying “let’s get this over and done with”.

I held my breath and my tongue. I reminded myself that I was there to pray and to empathise with my bereaved friend.

And then it happened.  The “it” was when my spirit soared.  The liturgy included a prayer by Cardinal Newman.  (John Henry Newman was a 19th century Church of England Priest who became a Roman Catholic and was made a Cardinal).

You’ll get to the prayer in a moment.  First you need to know that late evening and twilight have always been the times of the day when I have felt most wistful and sad. They signify to me not only the end of a day, but also the end of life.

Newman’s prayer is good for the end of a day.  It is also good for the end of a life.  

I cannot read it without being both sad and wistful.

Here it is:


O Lord, support us all the day long
until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.



Then, Lord, in thy mercy,
grant us a safe lodging,
a holy rest, and peace at the last.  Amen






1 comment:

  1. Michael,

    Yes, yes! One of my favorites as well.

    I think the original first line was “Support us all the day long of this troublous life. . .” The troublous was probably too “negative” for some prayer book revisers, but I always found it comforting, for I often find my life “troublous.”

    Thank you for both the post and prayer.

    Best,

    Rick

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