The Quiet Guide
Hopefully as you read this we will be enjoying beautiful May weather. We had some beautiful days in April and the spring flowers of Catsfield and Crowhurst with primroses, anemones and then the bluebells, have been wonderful.
Spring is a good moment for getting active. Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English prose, in his Canterbury Tales spoke of spring as being the moment when people decide they are ready to go travelling, again, ready to go on pilgrimage. In the middle ages we would have seen members of both parishes setting off to see the shrine of St Richard at Chichester, or St Thomas Becket at Canterbury. Maybe if they were more ambitious they would have headed to a Sussex port to catch a boat to Spain to visit the Shrine of St James the Apostle at Compostela in Spain.
If they had serious time on their hands, which I doubt anyone did round here, maybe they would have gone all the way to Rome. The Via Francigena, the route that has linked Canterbury to Rome since the earliest times took around six months on foot. I’m saving it up for when I retire! I have, however, already enjoyed reading an account by Harry Bucknall, a former Coldstream Guards Officer, entitled Like a Tramp Like a Pilgrim. I was especially struck by a passage when he senses that he is not alone in a French beech wood. He describes seeing a silhouette cross his path, as if to make it clear to Harry that he was there. But it then disappeared although ‘its presence was all about. I could feel it….It was as if someone…was watching over me.’
That story made me think of another passage in one of my favourite books the Horse and his Boy by C.S. Lewis. The boy from the title is called Shasta and he is trying to warn the good people of the kingdom of Narnia that they are about to be attacked. Unfortunately he loses his way in the mist, which is when he senses that someone is near him. He can’t see who it is, but he knows that someone is there and whilst it is a bit frightening he senses that it is a friendly presence. Eventually Shasta and the presence have a conversation about Shasta’s life, even though Shasta can’t see to whom he is talking. In the conversation Shasta discovers that he has always been watched over and things that he thought were a disaster are part of a plan for the good. And then for one glorious moment, as the light begins, Shasta sees a beautiful lion before he vanishes. Shasta then wonders if it was all a dream, but in the bright sunshine he can see that he has been brought through a dangerous mountain pass.
C.S. Lewis tells a good story, but he also uses his stories to prepare us a little for what it might be like to know the guiding presence of God in our lives. The fabulous lion, whose name is Aslan, has all sorts of things in common with Jesus Christ. Like the risen Christ He appears and disappears at will and He can sometimes seem absent when we need Him most. He can also take situations, which seems disastrous and turn them to the good and He can be with us when we don’t even know that He is there.
Aslan is not a tame lion who does what people want on demand and neither does Jesus Christ give us what we want when we want it. But the risen Christ, our contemporary today, does watch over us. When we look back at things, just as Shasta looked back at the mountain pass, we can sometimes see that we might not have made it without help we didn’t fully recognize at the time.
Posted By: valerie