A Song of Living

Amelia Josephine Burr blogsevenpondscomwpcontentuploads201201ameA Song of Living, by Amelia Josephine Burr was the choice Paul Pritchard made for a poem about Easter to be read at Vespers in Eastertide. Paul writes: 

Amelia Josephine Burr (1878 – 1968) was an American poet born in New York City. She married Reverend Carl H. Elmore of Englewood, New Jersey. She was described as a “popular lyricist, whose work yet flashes with genuine poetic feeling”.

Her poem, A Song of Living, published in her book Life and Living, a book of verse in 1916 is not necessarily an Easter Poem; at least it was not written as such. Indeed, its usual place within the canon is the section on death and dying but for me it is as the title suggest, about living and when are we more alive as Christians than in the joy of Easter?

The sorrow of death is the portion of those left behind and does not belong to the dead. Each stanza of this poem brims with life, ending with the same line “Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die”.

For many, life is tough and for some it is tough beyond the comprehension of most of us but I hope that for everyone there are moments of love, moments of gladness, moments of peace; these are the promises of Easter, and we as Easter people are duty bound, through our care for each other, to be instruments of such promises.


A Song of Living by Amelia Josephine Burr

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.

I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.

My cheeks like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.


I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard his song to the end,

I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.

I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.

I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.


I gave a share of my soul to the world, when and where my course is run.

I know that another shall finish the task I surely must leave undone.

I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.

As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God,

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

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The Kitchen Maid

KM Velazquez

What do you see in this painting?

What is the young black maid – sometimes referred to as a ‘Moorish maid’ – doing?

What do you think is her cultural or religious background?

The maid is bent over her kitchen table, where her work is done. She has helped prepare the meal. There are her pots and pans. However her mind and attention is elsewhere. She has her head turned and is focussed on what is happening behind her. We get the impression she is discretely listening to what is being said behind her.

This is Velazquez’s fascinating painting  Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus (1618) on display in Dublin at the National Gallery of Ireland. It is a deep and slightly solemn painting.

We see the maid, separate from the supper itself. She in fact is in the foreground, the light shines on her. Looking at the painting we see her first and then only as we look more carefully do we see Christ and the man at the table, visible through the kitchen hatch. The maid’s table is bare. Her work, the meal, has been taken to the dining room behind. There is a sense of unity about the painting. The maid intently listens to the words being spoken over her hand work, the words of blessing are said over what she has produced. She is curious, not distressed, she is quite intent on listening to what is being said and appears content in her work.

She, perhaps of a different culture or religion to those whom she serves, has prepared the bread which is broken. The bread which is the means by which Christ is revealed. She is in a real way part of the supper and part of the time of revelation, though in a different room. She hears her bread being blessed and hears of it becoming a source of wonder.

We are left thinking what her reaction was, how things later developed for her.

This is the third and final post in a series where we look at paintings relating to the Emmaus story in St Luke’s Gospel. The first is here, and the second can be read here.

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Taking care of your mind

Mental wellbeing

Taking care of your mind as well as your body is really important while staying at home because of coronavirus, writes Paul Pritchard. Paul continues with these very helpful points drawn from advice given by the NHS here…

You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you.

It’s important to remember that it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these feelings will pass.

  1. Plan practical things – think through what you need and if you need any help, ask for it, there are people willing to help. Remember church friends are happy to help.


  1. Stay connected with others – maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while you are all staying at home – by phone, messaging, video calls or social media – whether it’s people you usually see often or connecting with old friends. Lots of people are finding the current situation difficult, so staying in touch could help them too. Staying in touch with our St C’s family is strongly encouraged, if you need the contact details for someone, get in touch with us.


  1. Talk about your worries– it is normal to feel a bit worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember: it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too but be careful and mindful not to increase each other’s worries.


  1. Look after your body – our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse; think about diet and exercise.


  1. Stay on top of difficult feelings – concern about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal; however, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their day-to-day life. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to and where you get information from.


  1. Do not stay glued to the news – try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone. You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to checking a couple of times a day.


  1. Carry on doing things you enjoy – if we are feeling worried, anxious, lonely or low, we may stop doing things we usually enjoy. Make an effort to focus on your favourite hobby if it is something you can still do at home. If not, picking something new to learn at home might help – the internet is full of information to help.


  1. Take time to relax – this can help with difficult emotions and worries and improve our wellbeing.


  1. Think about your new daily routine – life is changing for a while and you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines and set yourself goals.


  1. Look after your sleep – good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel, so it’s important to get enough and think about what helps you to naturally get off to sleep.


  1. Keep your mind active – read, write, play games, do crosswords, complete sudoku puzzles, finish jigsaws, or try drawing and painting. Whatever it is, find something that works for you.
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May Day Quiz


May Morning on Magdalene Tower (Holman Hunt)

Here’s a quiz Alan has prepared for us for Mayday. Have a go!

Answers will be posted in the comments below.

1. The word “Mayday” is used as a distress signal by ships and planes. What does it mean?

a) Up the revolution?            b) Second World War code for “Invasion imminent”

c) Help me (from the French “m’aidez”)

2. The first Monday in May became a public holiday relatively recently. It was thanks to which government?

a) James Callaghan (1976-9)       b) William Ewart Gladstone (1892-4 etc.)

c) Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990)

3. Why is the Bank Holiday changed this year from a Monday to a Friday (May 8)?

4. Complete the sentence: “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your..”

a) chains        b) jobs          c) reserved parking spaces

5. Complete the old country saying: “Ne’er cast a clout till ……”

a) “ …lammas larks be on the wing”

b) “..the last born lamb is fettled fair”           c) “..May be out”

6. In Britain, May Day was traditionally celebrated by dancing round:

a) a maypole                   b) the parish church                  c)  a handbag

Be a happy worker7. On May 1st 1945 the news was announced of the death of whom?

a) Joseph Stalin       b) Adolf Hitler        c) Franklin Roosevelt

8. David Livingstone, explorer, doctor and missionary died on May 1st 1873 in which country?

a) Scotland    b) Malawi      c) Zambia

9. Antonin Dvorak, the Czech composer died on May 1st 1904. Where is he buried?

a) Prague    b) Vienna    c) New York

10. This year May 1st is the  Xth day of the year. What is X?

a) 121    b) 120    c) 122

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Emmaus: The First Mass


As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24.28-31)

Caravaggio’s famous painting The Supper at Emmaus (1601) illustrates this famous scene from Luke’s Gospel. This is the first mass, celebrated by Christ himself. Here Christ is made known ‘in the breaking of the bread.’ The natural world of food, and the normal human act of being at table together, are infused with the supernatural as the presence of Christ unites all. Here a domestic scene dramatically becomes the mass. The people are gathered around the table and the artist invites us in, to be part of the Supper.

The travellers on the road were puzzled, and disillusioned. Their hearts were warmed by the reading and exploration of Scripture and then Christ declares himself in the breaking of bread. That movement is the movement of the Mass. We travel, we seek understanding and Christ proclaims himself in the breaking of bread in the Sacrament of the Mass.

Look at the cook, standing and looking on. He is still questioning, wondering, but sensing that in some way this is a special moment. His contribution is accepted and blessed, and he himself, though perplexed is there, he is accepted and  included.

In these strange days of social distancing, and closed churches, Caravaggio’s painting challenges us to find Christ in the domestic meal around the table. These times are disturbing and perplexing. They are days also to learn from. Perhaps, and indeed hopefully, after the troubled time is over we will have discovered  a distinctive role for Christian community which places a special value on the small community celebration shown to us at Emmaus – with simple ritual and without distinctive vesture. A community which values  smallness and intimacy, gathered around table where Christ is known in the everyday breaking of bread.

The curator of late 17th century paintings gives a fascinating talk on Caravaggio on You Tube (click here). From about 10 minutes in you can hear her comments on this painting.

This is the second in a series of three in which we look at a painting related to the story of the Road to Emmaus. You can see the first, Emmaus is today, here.

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Emmaus is today

Em walk 1Look at the painting on the left. Can you imagine the place? Do you know somewhere like it? Can you imagine yourself walking along the path? Perhaps you have walked such a walk. Not exactly the same in detail, but similar.

The artist, Robert Zund (1826 – 1909) painted rural scenes of his native Switzerland, and neighbouring countries. The painting is probably based on scenes of his home area.

This painting is part of a larger one, entitled  The Road to Emmaus. Two travellers puzzled and distressed by the crucifixion and death of Jesus walk, dejected, to their home village, Emmaus. They are joined by a stranger who explains the scriptures and breaks bread with them – in the breaking of the bread they realise the stranger is Jesus himself.

Look now at the complete painting. As you do read the words below.

Em walk 2

We are on the path, Emmaus is really everywhere, the road that leads there is the path of every Christian, indeed, every human being.”

On our own journeys, the risen Jesus is a travelling companion, who may appear as a stranger, who “rekindles in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope and the breaking of the bread of eternal life.” The disciples’ on the Road to Emmaus were experiencing a crisis of faith. The use of the past tense by one of the unknown disciples says it all: “We hoped, we believed, we followed…but now everything, even Jesus of Nazareth, who had shown Himself to be a prophet mighty in deed and word, even he failed, and we were left disappointed.”

“Who has not experienced in life a moment like this?”

“Sometimes our faith enters into a crisis, which, because of negative experiences, makes us feel abandoned and betrayed by the Lord.” But the story of Emmaus suggests instead that it is possible to encounter the risen Jesus “still today”. “Still today, Jesus speaks to us in the Scripture; still today Jesus gives us his Body and his Blood”.

The road to Emmaus becomes the way to a questioning, open and mature faith. “An encounter with the risen Christ gives us a deeper faith, one that is authentic, tempered, so to speak, through the fire of Easter, a faith robust because it is from the word of God and the Eucharist, not human ideas.”

(Words in quotation marks are of Pope Benedict)
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“Enough! The Resurrection”

This Eastertime we’ve invited members of our St Chrysostom’s congregation to choose a poem which speaks to them of Easter. This week’s choice was actually made several years ago by Malcolm Hicks, and read beautifully by him in Church at that time.

Hopkins colourThat Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection, was one of the greatest poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He wrote it shortly before his untimely death at the age of 44, in 1889. The language of the poem is not easy but its rhythms are wonderful and the images and powerful are striking. Hopkins describes the power and force of nature, and ultimate darkness but then, “Enough! the Resurrection, A heart’s-clarion” The Resurrection is an eternal beam, in which we will be ‘all at once what Christ is … immortal diamond.

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-

Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.

Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,

Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.

Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare

Of yestertempest’s creases; | in pool and rut peel parches

Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches

Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there

Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature’s bonfire burns on.

But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark

Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!

Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark

Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone

Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark

Is any of him at all so stark

But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,

A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, | joyless days, dejection.

Across my foundering deck shone

A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash

Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash:

In a flash, at a trumpet crash,

I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and

This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,

Is immortal diamond.

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