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Portrait of George Herbert

Fr. George Herbert describes prayer thus:

Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
         God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
         The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
         Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
         The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
         Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
         Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
         Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,

         The land of spices; something understood.

There is an utterly wonderful meditation on this at Malcolm Guite’s marvellous site. His comment on the second line is so profound, and so fitting the case of a friend who needs prayer that I cannot resist quoting it here for him and for us all:

This line invites us into a very early tradition of prayer and meditation rooted in a reflection on the image of breath and breathing in the Bible. To understand this line we need first to remember that Hebrew, Greek and Latin all use a single word to mean both ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’. ‘God’s breath in man’ evokes that primal image in Genesis of God breathing the breath of life into humanity, the moment of our wakening as living beings, a moment of tender closeness to our Maker. But after that inspiration comes the equally decisive moment of expiration. We have to trace our history through fall and alienation pain and sin and death at last to the foot of the cross where a Second Adam, one in whom also the whole of humanity is bound and involved, stretches out his arms to embrace the pain of the world and breathes back to God that gift of life.

The Holy Spirit breathes upon us. In the Orthodox Church the catechumen being received is breathed upon. In stillness and in meditation upon God (and that is what my Rosary is to me) we can enter into that quietness where the soul is soothed and the dizzy brain is calmed. Sometimes, because of some of the associations of ‘meditation’ we think of it as something to do with ‘eastern mysticism’ and therefore to be distrusted. But the true eastern mysticism is that of Christ, who is the all in all, and he taught us how to pray. For those who find the Rosary too ‘busy’, there is the prayer of Jesus which the Orthodox pray: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’. Whatever brings calm and comfort and is of Jesus, we should take it as part of the rich banquet Our Lord has prepared for us.

I don’t know how many of you know the Sacred Space site, but for those of us with busy lives which involve computers a lot, it is a marvellous oasis from which to refresh us and feed the soul’s blood.

So, as we go through today, my friends, can I ask simply we pray each for the other, with a special prayer for DR, over whom the Blessed Virgin has cast her mantle of protection, and who needs to remember, always, the words of Mother Julian:

“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’