First Week in Ordinary Time and the feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord

SUNDAY 8th January – The Epiphany of the Lord

This is one of the strangest stories in the Gospel. How can a star stop over a village? Yet it tells us something about man. It is Herod who asks his wise men where the Christ is to be born and they, not the Wise men, tell him it is Bethlehem in Judea.

MONDAY 9th January – The Baptism of the Lord

An ordinary event, a baptism, but the heavens open.

There is a statement about the crisis in A&E by the Health Secretary. I put my neck out by saying that people should be charged for not turning up to GP surgery appointments.

TUESDAY 10th January

We have a long meeting of the International Trade Committee. We establish that it is possible to conclude trade deals quickly. One of the witnesses puts it well. We have to put control of our borders under democratic control.

Today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21
“… And his teaching made a deep impression on them because unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority”.

WEDNESDAY 11th January

We spend the day emailing and getting out in-hand copies to 650 MPs our all-party amendment to keep the debating chambers in the Palace. There is another inconclusive meeting with the Leader of the House. I hear a new argument every day.

Today’s Gospel, Mark 1: 29-29
“In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there”.

I talk to a friend about praying. I’ve tried John Main’s Christian Meditation. He recommends just having a conversation with God, of course it is a bit one sided but …

THURSDAY 12th January – St Aelred of Rievaulx

After going to ‘Silence’ last week, with its ten different ways of torturing Christians to death, we go to something lighter: ‘La La Land’. What’s wrong with escapism? Isn’t religion escapism, or is it an honest quest for truth? Yes, but still and escapist truth from this life.

In the morning I go to a funeral for a priest. The sermon is a powerful talk on preparing for death so that the moment of death is a glorious consummation of the preparation.

St Aelred, 1110 – 1167:

He entered the monastery of Rievaulx in 1133. At the age of 34 he moved and took charge of a new foundation in Lincolnshire at Revesby. He returned within 4 years to become Abbott at Rievaulx. Nothing of the Abbey exists today but bricks and stones were used to build a country house on the site.

Researching about the Abbey at Revesby encourages me to look up the history of the Priory at Orford, Stainton le Vale. At its dissolution in 1539 it had seven nuns. The Abbess was given a pension of £5. During the Lincolnshire Rebellion, the Pilgrimage of Grace, she provided a house. The priory had been founded by Ralf d’Albini in the reign of Henry II in the 12th Century.

Now it is just a series of mounds in a field.

FRIDAY 13th January

I took the train to Market Rasen, held a long surgery and walked two hours in fading light over the Wolds back home. It was completely dark and very cold. The tea was welcome. A delicious sense of tiredness after a winter walk.

Today’s reading from Hebrews 4: 1-5
“Be careful: the promise of reaching the place of rest that God had for the Israelites still holds good and none of you think that he has come too late for it”.

SATURDAY 14th January

J.R.R. Tolkien:

I watch ‘The Two Towers’ in the evening with Theo for the umpteenth time. We love it and know every line but something struck me: Treebeard bemoans Saruman’s fall from grace and says he used to walk in these woodlands. But presumably lovely as it was it was a lonely life and perhaps a bit boring. Saruman now aimed for power, for adventure, for dominance, even if he lacked the self-confidence to escape from the shadows of the Dark Lord. In a small way, how many politicians weary at the quiet, boring, gentle life? Walking under trees is not enough.

Psalm 18
“your words are spirit Lord and they are life”.