Sunday reflection

Reflection for the First Sunday after Trinity.
“We fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” St Paul in today’s Epistle, 2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1
“The Spirit that our God bestows, The mystery that loves and knows, The very soul our Saviour bought, Speaks through a body born of bread – and wine. The clinging vine That climbs some crumbled wall in France.” From At the Eucharist, a poem by Studdart Kennedy, the Army Chaplain known as Woodbine Willie. 
Today is the First Sunday after Trinity, as well as the Sunday nearest to the festival of Corpus Christi, thanksgiving for Holy Communion. It’s also the anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944 and marks the dedication of the British Normandy Memorial at Gold beach; ironically those who campaigned so long for this to happen are now unable to travel to the ceremony in France due to the Coronavirus restrictions.
Corpus Christi was also the first time I presided at the Eucharist as one of the first women to be priested in the Church of England in 1994, having served four years as a deacon. During that time, I met a war veteran who was one of the bravest people I ever knew as he lived with PTSD throughout his life after his experiences but considered this to be part of his service to his country. Former Sergeant Maurice Enser told me an extraordinary story that I have never forgotten and which, with his permission, was later published. Maurice died some years ago but his account of receiving Holy Communion in a dilapidated hut whilst under fire follows in his own words as a reminder of the cost of Corpus Christi, the blood shed by those who died or were injured during the war and all who have to live with terrible memories. May Maurice’s understated words of bravery under fire inspire courage in those who need it during the battles being waged today.
With my prayers; pob bendith,
Christine, Guardian.

“If someone had asked where was the worst place to hold a church service that would have been it, right on the brow of a hill in full view of the enemy. However 2nd Lt. Martin  and I went in and the Padre was in there and three or four other men ready. We started the service. After a short time we heard shelling start….they were aiming at this hut we were in. They had seen us go in and probably suspected we were observing their positions from there.

The Padre’s name was Captain Barrett, a very brave man, and he continued the service – we had communion. When it ended he said, “I think you had better take what cover you can.” We all lay on the floor. Mr. Martin and the Padre went into one corner, they were the two officers, and a soldier I had never met before shouted, “Do you want to come and join me?” I crawled over to where he was and dropped into a small slit trench there. By that he certainly saved my life and I told him that fifty years later when we met. We remained there and the shelling continued fast and furious. On more than one occasion a shell came through one wall and out of the other and didn’t explode – if it had been brick or steel or anything like that it would have exploded.

The next minute a shell dropped in the middle of us. The place was covered with dust and the smell of cordite and I could hear groaning and moaning. I got up and crawled over to where the two officers were and I reached Mr. Martin first. I knew he was dying and as I put my arm under him he groaned and gasped and died. In his back was a terrific hole. Then we helped Captain Barrett, the Padre, and he was in a bad way, his legs were completely shattered.

When I went back to my Platoon they had had a few shells but no-one was hurt. I had to tell them what had happened and that I was now their Platoon Commander. One young man, whose name was Paxton, said, “Could we have a bit of a service for them?” Well, it had been a bit of a troublesome time for me, it was difficult to gather my senses together, but I said to Paxton, “All right then.” We sang a hymn and then we had a prayer and I had a New Testament in my pocket. I read something and then I said a few words. At the end I said, “God Bless and go back to your duties.” I know Paxton in particular was pleased with that.

In the event, he was killed in my presence about two weeks later. I had no opportunity to have a bit of a service for him – I was taken prisoner at that time and I have never met his family. That was many years ago now but I did go with my wife to Belper on holiday  three years ago and we happened to see a war memorial. I went up and had a look at it – and Paxton’s name was on it.”