Moments of peace and quiet reflection are not always easy to come by in December, but that should not prevent us seeking them out, or embracing them when they come as an unexpected gift! One such gift came my way when the Dorchester Choral Society performed Benjamin Britten’s cantata Saint Nicholas.
The legendary life of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, is revealed in Eric Crozier’s libretto and Britten’s music and paints a dramatically bold portrait of the saint's character, exaggerating the legends and glory that have accumulated over the centuries around Nicholas’s story.
The thing that impacted on me was the interplay between the generations involved on the night, with voices ranging from 14 years old upward. It was one reflection on the hope found at the heart of Christmas; it is not exclusively for one age or another but for all ages and for all times.
An Advent and Christmas gift being offered this year is a discussion on Remnants! David Bowen has taken up the challenge of putting together a short course looking at what Remnant meant in the Old Testament and means in the Church today! David is posing two questions: Does God work best with small numbers? What does he do with the left-overs?
Part of my preparation has been to read William Dalrymple’s book (published in 1997) From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium. In AD 587, two monks embarked on a journey across the Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. Their aim was to collect the wisdom of the sages and mystics of the Byzantine East before their fragile world shattered.
Dalrymple observes that if the pattern of Christian suffering was more complex than I could possibly have guessed at the beginning of this journey, it was also more desperate. In Turkey and Palestine, the extinction of the descendant of John Moschos Byzantine Christians seemed imminent; at current emigration rates, it was unlikely that either community would still be in existence in twenty years.
Here is a second reflection on hope, twenty years on and Eastern Christianity retains a place in the lands that first heard the news that a Saviour had been born, there are still worshipping communities witnessing to the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the East.
Running throughout From the Holy Mountain is a rich blend of history and spirituality, adventure and politics. Similar themes accompany the faithful through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany: we have an opportunity to think again about the place God has in our lives. Moments of peace and quiet reflection are not easily found, but seek them out and in them think how you are going to translate the hope you have in the birth of Jesus into something new and lasting in 2018.
Thomas M. B. Woodhouse
Team Rector of Dorchester and The Winterbournes
Remnants is on 14th December, 21st December and 11th January 7pm at the Rectory: book early to avoid disappointment!