“he came from the island where there is bread & salt and a huge sky blowing . His learning was woven from those things to wisdom, his own books.
But in the war they sent him to something unwound, he lost touch with what mattered & made sense to the schoolteacher & the priest and the men who ploughed the seasons.
He unwound & his big blue eyes laughed at the spring light; they saw no longer all that needed fetching & carrying, that must build the drystone wall of their life against the wind.
So they sent him to the mainland.. ..the dry land.. a place of white walls & no doors, where he was told when he could wash his hands or eat his bread or sleep.
and in the dry land were other people who rocked backwards & forwards, who never stopped talking about nothing, whose hands had to be held for their fear of what was not there.
and his words dried inside him like the flowers that blow free on the island that brought him up. The words stopped like water in winter and they all poured into his hands.
In the garden he picked grasses. he searched for tall grasses with stems, to weave into the things he was feeling. He made garments from grass soft as felt out of the pictures that grew in his hands.
But no-one could understand his language, no-one could read his writing no-one tried to translate the wild song he still wove from the island alive inside him. [ Angus MacPhee of South Uist ; Kenneth Steven ]
A poem of remembrance for a Day of Remembrance, with our altar here still warm from a meal of remembrance, as we gather now as the Body of Christ to pray in support & thanksgiving for those members of our Body who, in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, paid the ultimate price to allow & enable us to gather here this morning, to celebrate their homecoming, & our journey in their footsteps, towards our ultimate common unity when we are all, each & everyone of us, re-united in the fullness of life love & truth in Heaven.. & isn’t Angus’ journey to war sent from his island, a wise young man of learning, well used to experiencing all he had learned & understood from schoolteacher & priest..sent to the mainland, our journey?..to life out there beyond this our privileged safe comfortable island of a valley, where he & now many of us are told what to do..a dry arid land where people like us live in combat on active service as front line disciples, in contrast with so many of our brothers & sisters, who rock backwards & forwards & who never stop talking..talking the talk..telling us nothing of what is everything but everthing which is nothing..where so many of us live/survive in fear of what was not there, nor is it there now..he was silenced dried emptied..frozen out or frozen in?..which is the worse winter deprivation?..from ground frost or frozen heartedness ?..Angus & we search we weave moments of remembrance, of feelings still there & everlasting “do this as a memorial of me”..he made garments “out of the pictures that grew in his hands”..hands so used to touching until “he lost touch with what mattered & made sense” & this morning we gather from the mainland of our individual lives, your homes & my monastery..places of white walls & no doors..whitewashed walls squeaky clean but lifeless colourless, & no doors that were so used to being opened in joy & welcome, of individuals & of the breath of fresh air we call the Holy Spirit..we return to his island, this haven of home security, safety & belonging, each of us, here & now, a prodigal son or daughter humbled & still welcomed into the real presence of those who gave their lives out there on the front line..in trench on warship in Lancaster bomber or those, mostly women, who stayed behind to do the fetching & carrying in love & in footsteps of their men folk.. a weave between them across the miles & islands, of the things they were feeling..out of the pictures that grew in their hands & their hearts..in a language no-one could understand, no-one could read, no-one could translate..a language we call faith, a relationship we call love, & a life we call everlasting..& it can’t be explained except to say what the composer John Barry..born in York a pupil of the Bar Convent.. called” the beyondness of things”.. ..which is perhaps why we are here, here & now, to weave the things we are feeling into a garment/ tapestry where the caring & careful painstaking work is done from the back.. from the engine room we might call the Church..which looks so confused untidy dry & frustratingly out of control..with many questions & doubts , until we turn tapestry over & look back in from the outside, & see the picture that grows in your hands..hands no longer held for fear of what was not there or here, but free.. a wild song of remembrance, “from the island alive inside him” alive in each of us here & now..a passover moment when we remember those who were not passed over, who were called to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we could continue to experience a life & a faith which is, & wlll always remain, beyond translation..& the face on the tapestry as his language, his writings & his translations finally become clear..is a fellow islander of ours..where what matters & makes sense reminds us of the island & the person still & forever alive inside us..known loved & remembered, Christ himself.. in 1966 Simon & Garfunkel wrote a song “I am a rock, I am an island” share lyrics with you, to allow you to contrast their island which lost touch, with our island..today touchable alive & remembered..
I am a rock & I am an island in a deep & dark December I am alone gazing from my window to the streets below on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow I am a rock, I am an island
I’ve built walls, a fortress, steep & mighty that none may penetrate I have no need of friendship friendship causes pain its laughter & its loving I disdain I am a rock, I am an island
Don’t talk of love well I’ve heard the words before its sleeping in my memory & I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died if I had never loved, I never would have cried I am a rock, I am an island
I have my books & my poetry to protect me I am shielded in my armour hiding in my room, safe within my womb I touch no-one & no-one touches me I am a rock, I am an island
..& a rock feels no pain & an island never cries..
..contrast their island, which lost touch, with our island; today touchable, alive & remembered ..
[Ampleforth Village Remembrance ; Sunday ; 10 Nov 2019 ]