Saturday, 29 December 2007

Feast of St Thomas Becket

Oh, incidentally, I'm back.

And it seemed not inappropriate, after a long hiatus of no-blogging, to recommence on this, the feast of St Thomas Becket, the man whom I went to England in large part to encounter and to venerate. And so I did.

After two weeks and one day of walking across English farmland, up Downs and down Downs, through villages, towns and cities, woods and fields, I entered the ancient city of Canterbury, mother of English Christianity, and made my way to the cathedral like the pilgrims of old. There, I knelt and prayed on the spot where Thomas was united with Christ in death, on ground that, 837 years ago today, was stained with his blood and brains.

I have been back in Australia for a couple of weeks now, but today I wore my pilgrim's badge to work with a certain amount of pride. Also a certain sense of unworthiness. One thing about martyrs is they stand as a reproach and challenge to one's temporal attachments. The desires in us that have not been purified, that still seek after worthless things, or even seek after good things but make them an end in themselves rather than a means and signpost to the glory and beauty and goodness that are in God and Him alone- while sometimes we can ignore or excuse these, the martyrs show them up with monochrome starkness by living and embracing the alternative. And that alternative is the Cross.

I shall no doubt say more about the numerous events and epiphanies of my pilgrimage in the near future. For today, however, it is enough for me to recall the awful and numinous experience of kneeling in the place where an English archbishop completed his journey to Calvary, and thence to Heaven.

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