Anniversary of the Dedication of the Abbey Church - 20th June 2022
Last year we were not able to be in the church to celebrate the dedication but this year we are rejoicing in our refurbished space. I’ve been so struck by the amazing ladder of light that moves around our walls on sunny days – a beautiful illustration of the ladder that Jacob saw linking heaven and earth. It draws our eyes from the earth, up and out to the sky beyond. It speaks of our role, each one of us, as living temples linking heaven and earth.
I think of this feast as one of ‘incarnation’, not so much the incarnation but our incarnation. In dedicating a physical space for prayer and worship we honour our bodiliness, our physical nature that responds to different kinds of spaces. God’s presence is in all places but we need hallowed places like our church where the distractions are cleared away and we are more able to sense the presence of God around us and within us. Through our prayer God’s energy is focussed and seems to cling to the very stones – and people who come here sense that.
The ‘place of the soles of my feet’ that we sing about in one of our vigils responds catches my attention each year. I find it a wonderful image, which I have found is taken from the prophet Ezekiel (43:7) – my imagination is very concrete and I find myself pondering what are the soles of God’s feet like? The image speaks to me of a God who is present in the physical reality of this world, whose feet are planted on this earth. For Ezekiel this was embodied in the temple in Jerusalem but for us, through Christ, each one of us is called to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are ourselves places where God dwells and the soles of our feet become the soles of the feet of God. We take God with us wherever we tread.
Our feet support us, enable us to balance and move. Life becomes difficult when our feet hurt or don’t work properly. They are wonderfully engineered to be flexible and strong – think of the load they carry every day. But it’s easy to forget about them until something goes wrong. Our culture encourages us to live in our heads, to believe we can solve all our problems by thinking them through. Of course, clear thinking is very important but it has to be grounded in the physical reality of our lives. To be aware of our feet, where they touch the earth, also brings greater awareness to the whole of our bodies, our physical presence. As we hold that awareness we come to know our dependence on all that God has created – the sense of our feet on the earth can connect us with all that supports our lives, the whole web of life. The soil under our feet is a miracle of interconnected living organisms and the ultimate source of our physical sustenance. Our work of gardening, of caring for the soil, has an important place in our service of God.
This community too is a web of life, it is the soil in which we grow. In this feast of the Dedication of the Church we celebrate not only the physical Church in which we worship but the way we are knit together in the body of Christ in this place and beyond. We are centred here but through our oblates and all who are connected with us our life spreads out into the wider world. When we are away we are still rooted in this community and the life of this place, drawing sustenance from our interconnectedness. And of course we are also part of the whole body of Christ, extending through time and space. Our connection with the communion of saints, of those who have gone before brings us joy and encouragement. But especially in these times of political and environmental upheaval we should also be holding an awareness of those who will follow after for whom, God willing, we will be an inspiration and encouragement.
So in the coming days let us use our awareness of the soles of our feet as a reminder of our connection with the earth, with one another and all living creatures. And the ladder of light in our church as a reminder of our role as mediators of God’s presence on this earth, as ones who hold together heaven and earth. May the soles of our feet truly become the soles of the feet of God.
Mother Anne - 20th June 2022