SUMMER rain - warm, drenching. It catches me up before I can get
to the house, a familiar sensation since boyhood, briefly a plight,
then a pleasure. The rain it raineth every day, but only a little.
Not like today, when it is as continuous as Portia's mercy. It
pours through a break in the guttering, it streams through the
oaks, it makes an extra river in the farm track.
Thomas Hardy made it fall with a wounding splash on poor Tess's
new grave, as if what had happened to her wasn't enough. And his
field-women, soaked to the skin, cried "How it rained!" But, seeing
it through the window, all I can do is to meditate on its soft,
remorseless progress, watch the plants bend before it, and the
valley itself receive it.
On Sunday, Paul calls himself the least of the apostles, because
of what he had been. The past weighs heavily on him, especially his
ignominious taking care of the coats of those who stoned
Also, hundreds of Christ's followers had witnessed him as the
resurrected Lord, but Paul had not. He felt it as a deserved and
indelible reproach. Yet by grace he was what he was, and not what
he had been. He had toiled for Jesus more than all the others put
together; so this grace was more than their grace. It validated his
apostleship - it gave him the right to be what he was, and to say
what he did. Not to mention the beauty of his expression.
Where did he learn to write? In that far from mean city, Tarsus?
Or, as with many great writers - Shakespeare at Stratford grammar
school, Keats at Enfield - had there been a minimal of
There was, of course, the proud dual nationality, and the
confidence which came from it. But how much of this would have come
down to us had he not been locked up? Oratory then being a formal
part of education, he would have lectured more than write letters.
These bring us close to him. Those to the Romans, whether Jews or
Gentiles, are tenderly inclusive. Those to all the other churches
recognise their particular countries, but without description; for
being one in Christ, not in nations, is the true unity of men.
On Sunday, I climb into Wormingford pulpit, and say what I must
have said before, but it cannot be helped. And the dear neighbours
sit where they have sat for years. And the medieval arches soar
overhead, and St Alban, in his Roman tunic and sandals, looks
across the red altar.
And Christopher plays his introit. And one candle wavers, and
the other doesn't. And we sing "Morning has broken like the first
morning," and I remember Eleanor Farjeon, who died in 1965, which
is yesterday in Anglican terms.
Coming home, walking through the orchard, the Victoria plums
touch my head. And the sculptor Jon Edgar writes to ask if I think
that his clay bust of me should be turned into bronze.
I look at myself from previously impossible angles, and myself
looks back at me. I have irises, not the blind gaze of classical
heads - although they were not blind to begin with, the painted
eyes have faded, then gone. Lashes, too. Now this marble stare.
This seeing nothing and this open-to-everything look. Did anyone
think of repainting the pupils of ancient statuary? What a
Pupil, the dark aperture at the centre of the iris through which
light enters. The impatience of Jesus. "A little while the light is
with you. Walk while you have the light."