Christmas Day Words

One of my regular walking companions is a Catholic deacon who does not give up trying to save me from my amateur humanism. Sometimes his theological advice is rough and ready: once when I asked, ‘If I do enough good works on earth, will St Peter let me in?’, he replied: ‘Doesn’t matter how many good works you do, without faith you are buggered.’ I understand that this take or leave it support has been ameliorated of late by RC church authorities, so I live in hope. On our last walk, two days before this Christmas he was telling me about a course on lectio divina he is promoting in his parish, and is dead against calling it a course so as not to put people off, but of course it is a course, with breakout groups, a guru to lead, the lot. Taking me at my word when I expressed slight interest, afterwards he sent me a book by Brendan Clifford, a Dominican Preacher, subtitled Lection divina and the human experience, at first sight one of those self-help polemics based on ‘interesting things that have happened to me’, but not so in this case. On Christmas Day, I read Clifford talking about a lady who took comfort in Ecclesiastes 3,1–4: ‘To every thing there is a season … a time to weep, and a time to laugh’. It actually did give me a form of consolation. illuminating some of my current bothersome anxieties as passing worries. Wanting to read it in the proper (is there any other?) King James Version, I went to my Bible on the sideboard where it rests alongside the Upanishads, the Koran, The Teaching of Buddha, and The Little Red Book. Having verified the words as suitably early seventeenth century, as I put the Bible back in its box a page flew open on which is inscribed ‘To Mum, Christmas 1964, much love Chris’. I was 20.

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