Easter Sunday reflection

Reflection for Easter Sunday

“Simon Peter saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple….went inside. He saw and believed.” From John 20:1-18, NIV.

“I’ve gone from building houses to building hope in people’s lives.” Dan Cant, a carpenter who lost an arm in a car crash and was fitted with a replacement. He is now in training and known as the Bionic Priest-to-be. 

Like so many, I’ve been saddened to see the amount of rubbish being left behind by those celebrating being able to meet up again outdoors, although in a restricted way. Piles of it have been left scattered across parks, beaches and streets as some of the public celebrated release from lockdown but not in the best way. The rubbish could have been taken home or put into the bins available and that did happen sometimes. However, an awful lot was left scattered around for others to deal with, causing further cost to the public purse as well as risk to refuse collectors from broken glass, some  drug use and the hazard of contagion from it. The rubbish needed proper disposal – but it was just left for someone else to deal with it.
That was the case for Jesus, too, who was put to death at Golgotha, just across the Kidron valley from Gehenna, the place where rubbish, waste and even dead bodies were left outside the walls of Jerusalem. It was a place of smells, maggots, death and decay and visible from Golgotha. Jesus, being crucified outside the city wall near that awful place, was mocked by some of those who witnessed this although his death would show all who drew near that there was another of dealing with the refuse, mess and nastiness of life: sacrificial love.
For that reason, the following photo shows a panel shown found dumped in a skip full of rubbish in Nottinghamshire. It was fished out by the skip operator and was sent, via his son, to St Melangell’s. On Good Friday, it was used in part of the Zoom service and, during Holy Eucharist in church today, was put into a place where it will be a reminder that Jesus took upon himself the rubbish and detritus of humanity to show that there can be a new and different way of life. He died to save life and is alive and at work in our world today – his love can’t just be chucked out and thrown away in a rubbish skip even if his effigy can. 
St Melangell’s was open on a restricted basis for the first time today for a said Easter communion and on the altar today was not the usual crucifix but an empty, plain cross as a sign that the suffering and death of Jesus is over. Today, the resurrection prevails and new life begins to emerge both then and now after the pandemic. For this beloved son brings us the hope and trust that death is not the end and that a different way of life is now possible as our lives during the pandemic remind us of what we’ve missed, taken for granted or now realise is important. As lockdown eases, we’ll discover afresh what that means as a new way of living becomes possible and that may involve us asking for God’s help in getting rid of the spiritual rubbish and mess we so often accumulate. What was left in the grave of Jesus was treated carefully and led to belief in the resurrection. That same belief will enable us now to deal carefully with what we no longer need and to dispose of it properly. That’s so for Jesus too, set free from the tomb and the confines of the churches where we sometimes prefer to keep him, now enabling worship through Zoom and the media.
This will not necessarily be a happy Easter as the effects of the pandemic rumble on but it can be a blessed one as, with God’s help, hope begins to be rebuilt while our new way of life develops and we begin to emerge from what confined us. For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

With my prayers,


Services for Holy Week

The Shrine Church of St Melangell – Services for Holy Week
Please note that, if you wish to use the church for private prayer, be present at any of the Zoom services or attend the Church service on Easter Day, it is essential to book beforehand by contacting 


 or ringing 

01691 860408

 It is regretted that, as yet, not all the usual services can be held this Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday, 10am – Zoom service of reflection.
11am: Chrism Mass at St Asaph cathedral by Zoom
Good Friday, 2.15pm: At the Cross, a Zoom service. 
Church open for prayer and reflection according to social distancing. 
Easter Day 10am: said Holy Eucharist according to current guidelines.
3pm Easter Praise – Zoom.
May a blessed Easter be yours as a new way of life begins!
Christine, Guardian.
Holy Week Services from St Asaph Cathedral

A wide range of online worship resources will be available through the Diocesan website and can be accessed here:  https://dioceseofstasaph.org.uk/lent-holy-week-and-easter/   

Led by members from across the Teulu Asaph, services include:

• The Palm Sunday Liturgy and Blessing of Palms
• Devotions for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week led by the Archdeaconries
• The Stations of the Cross
• A Good Friday Service from Hope Street
• Prayer and Meditation for Holy Saturday
• Ceremony of the Easter Light on Saturday evening, live at 19.30.
• An Easter Day Eucharist


Supplementing these diocesan services will be live Cathedral services for the Commemoration of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday evening at 7pm, and the Good Friday Liturgy at 14.00

Palm Sunday reflection

Reflection for Palm Sunday

“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut from the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’….. Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything.” From Mark 11:1-11, NIV.

“Now to the gate of my Jerusalem, the seething holy city of my heart, the saviour comes. But will I welcome him?” From Palm Sunday: a sonnet by Malcolm Guite.

It’s a year ago since the national lockdown meant that places of worship had to close and many churches began worship online. Due to the very slow broadband here at the time, St Melangell’s was unable to do this so, last Palm Sunday, I posted a reflection having seen the shadow of what seemed to be palm-like branches reflected onto the kitchen wall. It was just the sun shining through the plants on the windows sill but it gladdened my heart briefly at a time of uncertainty and astonishment – who would have thought that places of worship would be closed throughout Holy Week and Easter?
A year on, it therefore seems appropriate that it was just before Palm Sunday when the Welsh Government announced last Friday the easing of some restrictions including the freedom to travel within Wales and use self-catering accommodation. Just as Jesus rode through the open gate of the city of Jerusalem, so the gates and doors of some previously closed places can now begin to open – albeit on a restricted basis. Other UK countries have not been able to make the same decision and it’s not yet possible to travel to Wales from England but it’s clear that a cautious emergence is underway here – though not in many other countries abroad where coronavirus still rages. 
In St. Melangell’s church today, as can be seen in the photo, the sanctuary rail which is normally closed has also been opened as a reminder that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and then the temple happened then and still happens now. The procession of palms and all the things that make up the customary liturgy of Palm Sunday can’t happen in all churches yet – but are happening in modified ways elsewhere. Today, instead of using the traditional imported palm crosses, many will bring what they have fashioned from foliage nearby, just as those crowds did at the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Like those crowds, we too will shout Hosanna – although for many this will initially be in a solitary way at home before being echoed online. Technology means that people can still gather virtually, that worship can happen and prayers can still be prayed as well as concerns and hopes shared.  Where there’s a will……
Today’s Gospel reading indicates that, after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the welcome of the crowd, Jesus entered the temple and just looked around at everything at that stage. In the coming days, we may not be able to be part of a crowd yet but there will be opportunities in all that lies ahead to prepare his way in the smaller steps and acts that may – or may not – be possible. This Palm Sunday, as the triumphal entry of Jesus is observed in the cities, communities and places of worship of our day, is he still made as welcome? And, as Jesus seeks entry to the temple of our hearts and looks around at everything there, what does his gaze reveal?
With my prayers,
A prayer for Palm Sunday

God of Love, as the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus draws close, and he prepares to face capture, trial and death, your Gospel calls our attention to the donkey: the humble, patient, loveable creature carrying Our Saviour into Jerusalem. Give us the same patience, obedience and humility to hear your calming voice amidst the concerns we face this week, that we may trust you as our Guide, and know you as our Saviour.  Amen. Canon Carol Wardman

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the fifth Sunday of Lent, Passion Sunday
“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Jesus, in John 12:20-33, NIV.

“Is there another life?….. There must be. We cannot be created for this sort of suffering.”
The poet Keats, dying of tuberculosis at the age of only 25, in a letter from 1820. 
Today is the start of Passiontide, marking the remembrance of the suffering that Jesus endured in the days before his crucifixion. In the Gospel, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover for the last time and some Greeks ask to see him. Although Jesus has so often responded to those who seek him, he doesn’t actually meet the Greeks but instead begins to talk about what lies ahead. Jesus is troubled and he begins to speak of death, telling them, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (12:24) That is Jesus’ reply to those who want to see him – to those Greeks then and to us today, echoed in his later words, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (20:29) Yet, to speak of dying being fruitful seems a strange response – or is it?
There are so many stories of loss and renewal in the Bible, such as Abram leaving his family and country to become Abraham the father of many nations, Hannah giving up her young son Samuel to be raised in the temple or the disciples forsaking their homes and work to follow Jesus. So it is for us, too, at those pivotal times when we also leave home or family, place or lifestyle as lives evolve and are offered in service to others. That has been evident particularly during the pandemic when so many people have put themselves at risk, in some cases laying down their own lives that others may live. But every life will experience the loss of a loved one, of dreams, relationships and opportunities or the need to let go of regret, bitterness, anger or whatever prevents us from fulfilling our potential. In losing his life as he is lifted up on the cross, Jesus is faithful to what God asks of him despite the cost – and a new way of life results on Easter Day at the Resurrection. The single grain of wheat that dies has become incorporated into the Bread of Life still feeding so many today and the cycle of death and life is commemorated in Holy Eucharist: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come in glory. That is the Christian hope – but first, there is great suffering and a terrible death. 
During the pandemic, we have seen much of death. As Passiontide begins, the suffering caused by Coronvirus continues and the restrictions begin to ease, dare we find the courage to want to see where God’s love may also be at work and where resurrection, hope and new life too could be emerging too?
With my prayers,

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Mothering Sunday

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.” – John 19:25, NIV.
“Met chief faces calls to quit as police clash with vigil women.” – Sunday Telegraph.
“Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free.” – A C Benson, written for Elgar’s Coronation Ode and sung at the last night of the Proms.
Today is Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is also known as Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday or Refreshment Sunday – a day of celebration and respite from fasting despite the penitential season. A time for remembering Mother Church and their place of baptism after childbirth, workers traditionally had the day off for this and to visit their mothers, often picking a wildflower posy from the hedgerows on the way. The day varies according to the date of Easter, whereas the secular Mother’s Day is usually kept on the second Sunday of May. However, the cosy image of families united on this day is in sharp contrast with reality this Mothering Sunday when so many parents and children are separated, or bereaved, by the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, it’s not just the pandemic that’s causing isolation and disruption currently. The last week marked Commonwealth Day and International Women’s  Day but, amidst the celebrations of achievement, the unhappy divisions of alleged racism and mental health concerns within the Royal Family were also evident as well as the terrible irony of Sarah Everard’s kidnap and murder by a serving police officer meant to protect the public. With the Met’s Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, being the first woman to hold that role, awful scenes were shown from Clapham Common as police tasked with enforcing the Government’s pandemic restrictions clashed with women protesting about violence on the streets at a rally that was not allowed under the guidelines. Much negativity was created and, as the broadcaster Ayesha Hazarika commented, “This is a really grim day and also a very harrowing week for women.”
This is harrowing, not just for women but for all who long to see the issues of our day and the restrictions of the livelihoods and lives handled in a way that is mindful of the people affected by the sensitivities and divisions that have been created. Those tensions are part of ongoing human experience – two thousand years ago, a group of women also kept vigil in a place which was the focus of so much suffering as an innocent man died in agony on a cross. They and the disciples later found that grief and sorrow was turned into joy and hope as they all pieced together the story of what happened at the resurrection and new life began. In our day, we will eventually be able to piece our lives back together, tell our stories and make a difference when the time is right but, for now, patience and a bit of mothering may be needed. Melangell, the celibate Abbess who would today carry the title of Reverend Mother, showed that in her care for the humans and animals around her. May her example also inspire us to similar actions this Mothering Sunday as the challenge of rebuilding or changing the reputation and values of this Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free, continues after such devastation. 
With my prayers,
Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent
“Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 
Jesus, in John 2:13-22, NRSV.
“I suppose the bin gets to go out more than you can!” My brother’s recent comment.
Today’s Gospel makes difficult reading, as Jesus makes a whip to drive out the live sacrificial  animals in the Temple and overturns the tables of the money changers. This is not in keeping with the usual behaviour of the Prince of Peace and it won’t have done him any favours with the traders or the temple authorities, but Jesus clearly feels very strongly about what is happening and what needs to be done about it – regardless of what others may think.
John’s gospel puts this at the start of his ministry whereas the others include it near the end. For John, this happens just after the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana where Jesus, “…revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (2:11). After the joy of that first miracle, how confusing it must have been for the disciples – all Jews, like Jesus – to see what he was now doing in this holy place. 
Animals sold for sacrifice had to be perfect and could not be brought in from a distance, just as the money of those who arrived from so many different places had to be changed into currency acceptable in the temple – all this was legitimate according to the practice of those times. However, as it was almost Passover, the population would swell hugely as people went up to Jerusalem for the festival and the overcrowding in the temple would be great. The noise of the sellers, money changers and animals, as well as the mess and smell, is clearly too much for Jesus and he takes action accordingly against what others have come to accept. Perhaps there are things we have become so used to that we don’t realise they are no longer appropriate or action needs to be taken?
Jesus also talks of the temple being destroyed and then raised again in three days, which John interprets as the temple of his body at his resurrection when Jesus’ words are recalled by his followers. However, this cleansing of the temple hints at the conflict to come with the authorities – for now, confusion and speculation results. 
There is more than a hint of conflict with the authorities in the current disagreements now being experienced here over vaccination, plans for emerging from lockdown, the pay rise of 1% for NHS workers, climate change, Myanmar, Hong Kong……. The list is endless and the disagreements many – but there was a point of conflict for Melangell and Prince Brochwel, too.
In being ordered by Brochwel to hand over the hare that had fled to her for shelter, Melangell’s refusal could have provoked the prince into the use of force. Instead, something about her leads to him handing over that part of the valley for her use and the building of the community of which she becomes abbess. Generosity springs from the encounter – perhaps their example could inspire a similar response today. 
In the time of Jesus and his disciples, the temple had, for good reason originally, become what it was not intended to be – a cluttered marketplace spilling into a place of worship. Hearts and homes, churches and offices can also become places where a lot of clutter accumulates as we go through life and perhaps we, too, have overcrowding where space was intended for prayer, peace and hope. During the pandemic, many people have been de-cluttering their rooms and the charity shops have benefitted – when they were open. My brother is also correct when he suggests that the rubbish bin goes out more often than me! 
This Lent, perhaps a clear out and cleansing of hearts and minds is also overdue: as the hymn suggests, “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee.” Is there room for him and for the important things of life that are sometimes overlooked? If not, how can space be created each day as we, too, begin to prepare to go up to Jerusalem for the approaching festival as Passiontide, Holy Week and Passover draw nearer?
With my prayers,
Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent and Dewi Sant

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus, in today’s Gospel Mark 8:31-end. 

“Rejoice always, keep the Faith and your faith and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.” Dewi Sant, in his final sermon.
“I thank all the volunteers and the health care professionals at the vaccination centres…. just grinding out this victory jab by jab, blow by blow, against this virus.” Prof. Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer.
Today’s Gospel would have been shocking for the disciples as Jesus begins to speak of his suffering and death, which is why Peter reacts so strongly in rebuking him and then finds himself called Satan as a result. Although Peter doesn’t realise it, he’s tempting Jesus to find an easier way rather than follow what God is asking of him. In resisting this, Jesus has to repeat his words on two further occasions (Mark 9:31 and 10:33,34) before the disciples begin to accept what he’s telling them – how hard it must have been for him and them. 
Perhaps it’s hard for us to hear, too, that we can’t have faith on our terms but must also follow in the footsteps of Jesus who walks where it can be so fearful to tread. That may be why, when faced with suffering, it can be tempting blithely to suggest that we all have our cross to bear rather than acknowledging the terrible and overwhelming cost that is sometimes involved. However, the pandemic has meant that suffering, loss and devastation have been inevitable for many people and the cost has been emotionally and financially huge. Self denial has been necessary in the restrictions that have been imposed but, after such a terrible ordeal, now that the vaccines are making a difference there may be hope on the horizon and joy may, in time, result.
That can be hard to hear for those who have been badly affected by Covid 19 and the words of Dewi Sant, “Rejoice always” may be ironic to hear as the pandemic continues today. How can there be rejoicing in such circumstances? 
In his lifetime, David knew times of great challenge in leading a simple life, founding at least a dozen monasteries with a strong emphasis on hard work and making the sick and the poor a priority. Yet he also encouraged the community around him in doing what needed to be done and his words “Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd” – “Do the little things in life” – are still central for many today. 
There are many little things that need to be done as roadmaps for emerging from lockdown are produced and as the Lenten time of inner reflection continues. Not everyone will have choice, power or opportunity to do great things – but many wonderful things can develop from the small. Captain Sir Tom Moore, whose funeral was held yesterday, raised nearly forty million pounds for the NHS by initially setting out just to walk a hundred laps of his garden and perhaps raise one hundred pounds. It was said of him by the commentator that, “He was the character who never intended to be what he became… A reminder that a profoundly ordinary Yorkshire man found an extraordinary way to remind a nation and the world that, even when there is mortality everywhere, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.” 
Faced with the mortality of Jesus, it was too much for Peter initially. Perhaps he and the other disciples were unable to hear that Jesus wasn’t only telling them that he would die but that he would rise again (Mark 8:31) and that those who lost their life for his sake and that of the gospel would save it (8:35). Jesus is giving hope for the future as well as the present and that would later be confirmed on Easter Day but, this time, trust was, understandably, an issue for his followers.
Perhaps that’s so for us too with much still to endure but the resurrection of Jesus, the lives of his followers and the saints like David and Melangell who have shaped the faith that has come to us today show that love and hope will not be defeated, though it may sometimes seem so at the time. Dewi’s challenge to do the little things remains and, during this Lenten time of reflection, perhaps we need also to renew trust in ourselves and to ask whether we are now the character we never intended to become and what little things need to be done in the days ahead.
With my prayers – pob bendith,
Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the first Sunday of Lent

“At once the Spirit sent Jesus out into the desert and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.” From Mark 1:9-15, NIV.
“I’m safe on Mars. Perseverance will get you anywhere.” Tweet from the NASA rover. 
The news this week that the Perseverance rover had landed safely on Mars was an astonishing feat of technical and scientific brilliance. Despite the perils, the dry and dusty Jezero Crater became its base as the rover now begins a search for signs of life in the remains of this former lake. What amazed me almost as much as its landing was the rover’s words, “I’m safe” – an astounding thing to programme in a robotic machine and also reminiscent of the Biblical I am sayings linking Moses (Ex. 3) and Jesus.
There’s a link between Moses and Jesus regarding temptation too. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery and through the sea into the desert, where temptation and quarrelling awaited them. Jesus, after his baptism by John, was sent by the Spirit into the desert where he also faced temptation, the first in both cases centring on food. The Israelites complained about hunger, which was overcome by manna sufficient for the day (Ex. 16) and echoed in Jesus’ request for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer. Secondly, they tested God with complaints about water (Ex. 17:2) and thirdly, they worshipped the golden calf they had made at the base of a high mountain rather than worship him. The Israelites gave in to these three temptations whereas Jesus resisted what he faced by quoting scripture from exactly the same stories in the book of Deuteronomy: he overcomes the temptation to turn stones into bread (8:3), refuses the temptation to worship Satan to gain worldly power (6:13-15.) and will not test God by throwing himself off the highest point of the temple (6:16). Having been declared to be the Son of God at his baptism, Jesus is taunted by the words, “If you are the Son of God” yet he is faithful in spite of the subtlety of the temptations he faces. This is only Jesus’ first temptation – Peter later tempts him to avoid the cross (Matthew 16:23) and, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus will struggle with the temptation to avoid the suffering that lies ahead (Luke 22:42-44).

There are many subtle temptations facing us as we continue to endure the desert experience of isolation and lockdown during the pandemic. Confronted with the example of Jesus, whose experience in the wilderness enables him to overcome temptation, and that of the Israelites who fail to resist it, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that the lengthy solitude of lockdown may bring out the best and the worst in us – especially when trying to work out the various ‘ifs’ that lie ahead if the schools go back, if the economy improves, if holidays become possible……. It may be a comfort to know that Jesus, in his humanity, knows what it’s like as temptation is faced for this is no robot for whom temptation was not a real issue. To overcome temptation in any wilderness situation takes time, effort and will – perseverance is key, for NASA rovers and humans alike! 

With my prayers,
Christine, Guardian. 

Reflection for the start of Lent

Reflection for the start of Lent

It’s now Lent in the church year, the time recalling the forty days and nights Jesus spent living very simply in the wilderness, facing temptations and reflecting on his future after his baptism. Following his example, Lent was traditionally when people fasted, gave up things that tempted them and reflected on their journey through life. Intended to strengthen the spiritual aspects of faith, it sometimes became just a battle with food and ended in disappointment when people quickly gave up as the biscuits won or excuses were made. I still remember the story of a child being asked by her mum to hull some strawberries while she went out. Knowing that her daughter loved eating them, her mother told her to turn her back if the devil tempted her to eat the berries. On return, seeing the telltale stains around her mouth, her mum asked why she hadn’t done this. The daughter replied that she had turned her back on him, but the devil had then pushed her onto the strawberries and made her eat them!

This Lent, whether we believe in the devil or not, so much has already had to be given up through being in lockdown and many people have had to live without seeing their family and friends or doing what they want to do when they want to do it. Realising that we can’t always have our own way or liberty can highlight how much we take for granted and how fortunate we may have previously been. However, this has been going on for much longer than forty days and part of the temptation has been to ignore the restrictions or become dispirited. For many, it’s been a desert experience of profound loss and the way ahead uncertain so, rather than only give things up for Lent this year at an already harrowing time, why not also take on something that will create fresh hope as the vaccines are given and a new, safer way of life becomes a possibility? 

There are many online and media resources currently available for doing this but one local possibility could be using the new booklet about Welsh saints which includes Melangell. It’s a bilingual study resource which has been developed by the Methodist Church’s Learning Network Cymru Wales: Pilgrimage in Wales – walking with the saints. It focuses on the theme of pilgrimage and is based on the lives of four of the best-known Welsh saints, David, Winefride, Illtud and Melangell. Suitable for Lent, it can be downloaded without charge from walesworshipweb.blogspot.com and the booklet is helpful for Zoom discussion groups as well as individual use. It’s also available as a free A5 size paper booklet by emailing lnwales@methodistchurch.org.uk 

Wherever your journey takes you this Lent, may the desert experience brought by the pandemic teach us that, in following in the footsteps of Jesus and the saints down the ages, the wilderness can be fruitful when we learn how to survive in it and resist the easy temptations that are part of it. For that reason, the Lenten altar at St Melangell’s carries the traditional purple array, sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance and regret – but there is also a burning candle and some snowdrops as a sign of light and blessing. The loss and cost has been great but the new life bursting out in the flowers, trees and beauty all around us after the dearth of winter also testifies to re-creation and fresh hope – whether or not we can find the Lenten discipline to persevere. God bless us all in our wandering, wondering and seeking of the way ahead.

With my prayers,
Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Lent.
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” From Mark 9:2-9.
“The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face.” From ‘Transfiguration’,  poem by Malcolm Guite.

“Happy Valentine’s to all of you in love and all of you looking for love. Never lose the faith!” Jane McCubbin, BBC reporter.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday, when Jesus is irradiated with God’s love in a way that dazzles as well as terrifies those with him. It’s also Valentine’s Day, when lovers express their feelings with cards and gifts – often at great cost, emotionally and financially. The custom originated as a feast day to honour the third century Christian martyr who was decapitated and its connection with love may have begun through Chaucer declaring that birds mated then: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery Byrd comyth there to chese his make.” From ‘Parlement of Foules’.
Whether marking beheading or betrothing, with the price of flowers up by at least 10% due to Brexit as well as the pandemic and isolation still meaning that many can’t be with those they care for, this is a costly time for lovers. But love is often challenging: when a prison chaplain, I recall one inmate complaining that his wife’s unreasonable behaviour had put him in prison. She had come home early and they’d had a fight when she caught him in bed with another woman – yet he indignantly protested that she should have been grateful that he was loving the family, the other woman being her mother! 
The true price of love has been all too visible throughout this year with NHS, key workers and volunteers risking their own safety to care for others, the isolation and loneliness of so many people and the loss of loved ones and livelihoods. Mental health and domestic abuse concerns with disruption to education and the economy as well as the growth of scams have resulted but so has the realisation of what is important, the development of new ways of communicating, exercising and worshipping through technology and the growth of creativity and humour. The sacrifice being endured is not in vain as infections are now falling sharply, hospitalisation is lower and death rates are beginning to fall. Just as love shines from the face of Jesus in Guite’s poem, showing the costly love of God for all humanity, so it shines in the faces of those who glimpse the power of love being revealed in so many ways. That doesn’t have to be shown by expensive flowers or gifts, but in the response to this transfiguring love that could enable the creation of a more loving and appreciative way of life now and in the new way of life when we emerge from lockdown. The cost of that is priceless – but, as we can all play our part in it, so is the hope. 
With my prayers,