Ascensiontide Novena, Day 1


In ordinary usage, we seem to talk of presence in three main ways. First, there is temporal presence, or presence now.  This kind of presence is opposed both to the past, which is no longer, and to the future, which is not yet.  The presence of a pain, for instance, means that I am feeling it now, though perhaps I was not feeling it yesterday and will not be feeling it tomorrow. Next, there is spatial or local presence. This is presence here, as opposed to distance.  That which is locally or spatially present is near me or beside me. The presence of butterflies in my garden means that they are congregated in this spot. Thirdly, there is personal presence. When one person is present to another, there is more than their congruity in space. Latin has a special preposition to express the notion of personal presence: coram. To be coram vobis is to be in your presence;  to be coram Deo is to be in the presence of God… Christ is present par excellence in the consecrated bread and wine.   This is the centre of Eucharistic presence…  But what about the reservation of the sacrament in churches, as a focus of devotion, a centre of real presence?  I would venture to say that these devotions have a special place at the present time, namely, that they teach us that sometimes there is the need for passivity before God. Here one has to stand against the trend of the times and not conform to the fashion. That fashion is activism, but there are occasions when our action has to be suspended before Christ. Activists are in constant danger of becoming too intense, too politicised, too polarised, too self-righteous. I hope it does not sound frivolous to say:  ‘Relax a little in the presence of Christ!’

John Macquarrie (1919 – 2007) Paths in Spirituality Anglican theologian and philosopher

COLLECT: O Blessed Jesu Christ, who didst bid all who carry heavy burdens to come to thee, refresh us with thy presence and thy power. Quiet our understandings and give ease to our hearts, by bringing us close to things infinite and eternal. Open to us the mind of God, that in his light we may see light. And crown thy choice of us to be thy servants, by making us springs of strength and joy to all whom we serve. Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.    Amen.

Evelyn Underhill (1875 – 1941), English retreat conductor and writer on Christian mysticism and spiritual practice in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.




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