Plague Rag: Easter VII, Sunday after Ascension; 24 May, 2020

In the Lady Chapel at St George’s there are two large pictures. One is of Our Lady of the Rosary, the other is of St Joan of Arc. Both of these date from the time of World War I and its aftermath, a time of great worry and concern, as so many went off to war, putting their lives at risk. They were saints chosen for their time. The war against Germany and the Axis powers was portrayed as a war for civilisation against barbarians. Part of France was occupied, so Joan of Arc was seen as a symbol of France struggling for its freedom (the inconvenience of her original struggles being against the English were politely ignored). Our Lady of the Rosary was seen as the patron of the victory of the great defeat against the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, a victory that saved the Christian nations of Western Europe. This Saturday we will commemorate the feast of St Joan. St Joan was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1471, aged only 19, after leading a spectacular military campaign against the English forces. Her visions, gender and determination to wear male armour to fight made her highly suspect, and led to her death. These pictures both reflect a time of great worry at our Parish during the war, a period of four long years that makes our present troubles much smaller.

But small as they may be, they have been hard. It has been wonderful to see a gradual easing, people out on the streets again, and even sitting down for a coffee with friends.

The last months have taken their toll on many people, short though it is compared to the wars of last century. We have had friends die and been unable to go to their funerals. The need of human contact, even a hug from a grandchild, has been impossible. Gyms and the companionship of sport has been forbidden. A bus trip has become a thing of worry from contagion and not a pleasant and easy trip into the city. Living in close confines without our support circles is stressful. Many of you I know have struggled with depression at this time. Finding hope is an important part of dealing with depression, and the hope that we obtain from a life of faith has been shut off with the shuttered doors of our church. We may have saved our physical health, but there is a price we are paying with our mental health still.

Like you, I was frustrated by the prohibition to have our church open for mass. But this is what we signed up for by being a Christian. We must not lose our peace over it. Our Lord often expects us to fight, and fight hard, for victory when this is possible. At other times Our Lord simply wishes us to endure. In this case we endure, for the time being, thankful that we at least have been spared the ravages we have seen overseas. St Theresa of Avila (a place where I had planned to be at this time for my holidays) puts it this way:

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing;

God only is changeless.

Patience gains all things.

Who has God wants nothing.

God alone suffices.

So, it is with great joy that I will see so many of you again as our church slowly re-opens this Sunday. Alas, at this time it can only be for ten at a time, so please email me to book a time. Remember that we must practise the dreaded social distancing, which should not be a problem in a building our size.

Last Thursday we celebrated the feast of the Ascension, when we celebrate Our Lord’s ascension bodily into heaven. This is the complement of Christmas. At Christmas, God became human, accepting our human condition, at Ascension, he takes our human condition into heaven, showing us that humanity is understood and accepted by God, and loved. All our worries, our concerns are known by the God who lived as one of us, and takes them all into heaven.

Back on parish news, if anyone can help pay the school fees for the Sua family in the Solomons, our former parishioners and now part of our extended family, please get in contact with me. Charlyn has AU$300 and Reece is about AU$540 (outstanding).

For a hymn this week I have chosen a modern hymn, Lord of the Dance by Sydney Carter. He wrote this hymn in 1963. This is his story about it:

I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other Lords of the Dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best. I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus.

Whether Jesus ever leaped in Galilee to the rhythm of a pipe or drum I do not know. We are told that David danced (and as an act of worship too), so it is not impossible. The fact that many Christians have regarded dancing as a bit ungodly (in a church, at any rate) does not mean that Jesus did.

The Shakers didn’t. This sect flourished in the United States in the nineteenth century, but the first Shakers came from Manchester in England, where they were sometimes called the “Shaking Quakers”. They hived off to America in 1774, under the leadership of Mother Anne. They established celibate communities – men at one end, women at the other; though they met for work and worship. Dancing, for them, was a spiritual activity. They also made furniture of a functional, lyrical simplicity. Even the cloaks and bonnets that the women wore were distinctly stylish, in a sober and forbidding way.

Their hymns were odd, but sometimes of great beauty: from one of these (“Simple Gifts”) I adapted this melody. I could have written another for the words of “Lord of the Dance” (some people have), but this was so appropriate that it seemed a waste of time to do so. Also, I wanted to salute the Shakers.

I remember hearing a beautiful version of this sung when the fourth verse, about Jesus dying, was sung slowly and deeply, before speeding up again at the words “but I am the dance and I still go on.” Here is an organ version by All Saints’ Church, Oystermouth, Swansea for those who love organ music, here is another one from Swansea as well; I liked it just because it came from the wonderfully named Mumbles Methodist Church there, and here is a splendidly sung version by the students of Christ’s Hospital in England, which I know will appeal to one member of our parish who is an alumna of that school.

1 I danced in the morning

when the world was begun,

and I danced in the moon

and the stars and the sun,

and I came down from heaven

and I danced on the earth,

at Bethlehem

I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,

and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,

and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

2 I danced for the scribe

and the pharisee,

but they would not dance

and they wouldn’t follow me.

I danced for the fishermen,

for James and John –

they came with me

and the dance went on.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,

and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,

and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

3 I danced on the Sabbath

and I cured the lame;

the holy people

said it was a shame.

they whipped and they stripped

and they hung me on high,

and they left me there

on a Cross to die.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,

and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,

and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

4 I danced on a Friday

when the sky turned black;

it’s hard to dance

with the devil on your back.

They buried my body

and they thought I’d gone,

but I am the Dance,

and I still go on.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,

and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,

and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

5 They cut me down

and I leapt up high;

I am the life

that’ll never, never die;

I’ll live in you

if you’ll live in me –

I am the Lord

of the Dance, said he.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,

and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,

and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

God bless

Fr Scott

Online Resources

This week, we’ll continue to look at Contemporary Christian Art – last week we took a look at DaeWha Kang’s intervention at St Andrew’s Holborn in London – part of a thorough renovation to a Christopher Wren church.

Here are three more:

  1. Egbert Modderman of the Netherlands. Richly detailed depictions of biblical scenes that tend towards photo-realistic portraiture – yet free of the cloying sentimentality that often accompanies this genre.
  2. John Nava and the tapestries at the new Cathedral of our Lady of Angels in, you guessed it, Los Angeles. Remarkable work in a very contemporary building – the Diocese placed great trust in Mr Nava given the importance of the tapestries to the interior.
  3. The Meszaros Family. The large medallion of Christ Before Pilate in the St George’s oratory is by Andor Mészáros, a prolific Hungarian-born Australian sculptor of the post war period famous for, amongst other things, the 1956 Melbourne Olympics medals.  Our piece is part of a larger series depicting the Stations of the Cross; I had thought that the only complete sets were at Trinity College Melbourne, St George’s Cathedral Perth and Church of the Resurrection in Loxton – however, this article from the Museum of Victoria hints at a Canterbury connection. He also designed a life-sized sculpture, picture below, of Christ Accepting his Cross at our sister shrine church of All Saints Wickham Terrace in Brisbane and a number of other pieces were made for one of our sister churches, St Peter’s Eastern Hill in Melbourne.  Andor’s son, Michael, continues to work in a similar vein and while he doesn’t adopt a particularly Christian perspective, his work his worth a look.  A third generation, Anna Meszaros, designed the 14 Stations of the Cross that are located by churches in the eastern end of the Melbourne CBD.  The grandfather’s heritage is easy to see!  I can’t locate an online guide all 14 stations, but here’s a link to the St Patrick’s cathedral page as a starting point for your google hunt!

If you’re having any difficulty accessing these resources, please contact Tim Hender at


O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: we pray you, leave us not comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exult us to the same place where our Saviour Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First reading                                                                                                                          Acts 1:6-14

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Hear the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 26: 1,4,7-8. R.v. 13

Response: I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

The Lord is my light and my help;

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

before whom shall I shrink? R.

There is one thing I ask of the Lord,

for this I long,

to live in the house of the Lord,

all the days of my life. R.

O Lord, hear my voice when I call;

have mercy and answer.

Of you my heart has spoken;

‘Seek his face.’ R.

Second reading

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

A reading from the first Letter of St Peter.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Hear the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Gospel                                                                                                                                 John 17:1-11

 A reading from the holy gospel according to St John.

Glory to you Lord Jesus Christ.

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.’

This is the gospel of the Lord. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.

Published by

St George the Martyr Anglican Church Goodwood, Adelaide, South Australia

An Anglican church in the Catholic tradition - the leading shrine church in Adelaide!

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