First Week in Lent

BOTTICELLI, Three Temptations of Christ (1481-82), Fresco, Cappella Sistina, Vatican City

SUNDAY 5th March – First Sunday in Lent

I am up for Lauds early, then I go to Mass at Downside Abbey and then travel back to London.

“Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’, he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me’”
Matthew 4:1-11.

MONDAY 6th March

I chaired a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society with a former Obama staffer talking about the White House’s interactions with Russia. What is amazing is that they and the Foreign Office seem to have so little knowledge of Russian history and sensitivities. One assumes these people are well resourced and very knowledgeable.

I meet with a Minister to discuss my amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill the next day to give space to religious people in “relationship” education.

Matthew’s Gospel today, 25:31-46, is the most difficult –
“I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me”.

TUESDAY 7th March

I move my amendment on the Children and Social Work Bill to take out compulsory “relationship” classes in school. There is no point in forcing a vote. We would get so few votes because most people just come in at the end and vote according to the party whip. I quote the Supreme Court. The first thing a totalitarian government does is to decree what is taught in schools.

Isaiah today, 55:10-11, as always is beautiful
“As the rain and the snow dome down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to seeds for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty”.


The Budget. As usual, I have endured over 34 of them, it will unravel within a few days. We have to be honest about raising money for the NHS and social care through self-reliance, social conscience and charging.

The reading today is about Nineveh
“Only 40 days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed”, Isaiah 3:1-10.

As I sit in the crypt Mass listening to these words I can’t help thinking that Nineveh is none other than modern day Mosul, located on the eastern bank of the Tigris in the suburbs of the modern city. It was the largest city in the world for over fifty years until it was sacked in 612 BC. It has just, in January 2017, been recaptured from ISIS.

In 612 BC there was home to home fighting in Nineveh, which was then destroyed building by building and left in utter ruins, its people were massacred and deported. The Assyrian Empire was divided between Medes and Babylonians.

The prophet Nahum, whose tomb I’ve visited, foretells the city’s desolation.

Until the eighteenth century and the excavations of Austen Layard, all knowledge of the site passed by the minds of men. I am reminded of a phrase from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. All knowledge is passed from the minds of men.

THURSDAY 9th March

I take the train to Market Rasen and walk home via the Ramblers’ Church – the incomparable view and silence compromised by an irritating call on the mobile phone.

“Great peace they have which love thy law”
Psalm 119.

FRIDAY 10th March

I go to Riseholme College to meet with the Head of the Skills Funding Agency. They are taking Lincoln University to court to protect the farm for future generations of agriculture students.

In the evening I go to the AGM of the Gainsborough Conservatives branch.

Ps 119 is exceptionally long. I have been reading it day by day in our village church
“Blessed are the undefiled, who walk in the law of the Lord”.

SATURDAY 11th March

We fly to Bad Homburg near Frankfurt and in the museum there Mary finds a relation, a Mecklenburg, a daughter of George III, Elizabeth, who married a local Prince. A visiting group of ladies in the museum say they spot a likeness.