Vespers-An evening meditation on and at Christmas

Vespers-An evening meditation on and at Christmas


In honore noctis sacrae

Fujifilm X-T2, XF 16-55/2.8

ISO 6400, 1/250s@f9



At heart and in my heart, I suppose I am a contemplative.

While I wouldn’t categorise myself as a practising Christian, certainly not these days, there is so much ritual I have grown up with, so much Anglo-Catholic tradition which has infused itself into my Self that it has become almost unconscious to draw upon it. 

Should I ever get to la belle France, I intend to take a trip to the community at Taizé, and immerse myself into the beautifully meditative communions they hold there, to sit in silence among song and candles, meditation and personal reflection. For I do believe that God dwells in the space between letters and words and thoughts. He dwells in the silent places of the heart.

At heart and in my heart, I suppose I am a contemplative.

Not for me the frenetic jubilation of Pentecostalism, of sound desks, drum kits and speaking in tongues, and preachers who lay down the lore. I will leave that approach and way to others who find a home there.

My immediate church lies in birdsong, in the murmur of the ocean which binds us all intimately, and in the soft kiss of the wind on my cheek. It lies in the passage of the sun across the sky each day, and it lies in the slow drift of the moon across the sky each night. It lies in the ephemeral and fleeting passage of clouds. It lies in studying the meaning and interconnectedness of what I see and feel before me, around me and within me. Simply Living and living simply can be a prayer of sorts for both day and night, not something done at each end of the day, or for a couple of hours on a Sunday. And there is as much wonder to be found in the truth of a plant growing on a patio as in the breath-taking glory of a grand garden.

Recently a friend, who is a yogi, pointed me at a small book he had written (E-book and paperback). The Forgotten Gurus pointed me back to the inspiration of the natural elements and what we can learn by simply being present and reflecting upon what we see and hear and feel, about the lessons to be found in Nature. I recommend it. Highly.

There are so many ways to be present to Nature and to learn from it. We can read about it and we can enjoy it through the eyes of others, via Vimeo or YouTube. Or we can simply be among and with it. We can meditate in the morning and watch the gentle unfolding of a new day.

 And of course, we can meditate with a camera, spending No-time in that place between us and what we observe. Perhaps our camera allows us to become the observer and not the participant. We can allow the small voice of our Self to whisper to us in that serene and timeless void. We can use simple settings (f8, enough of a shutter speed to avoid camera shake, and Auto ISO), and then, camera set and monkey mind concerns despatched to the Outer Rim of our Conscious, be fully present to the moment. And when it feels right, simply press the shutter.

Later, as we review it, we can again sit in contemplation and wonder why we chose that moment of all the ones available, and then ponder on what it says to us and about us.

 For every picture we make is a beautifully-walled and framed autobiography.

 And, so often, something calls to us, insists we take up our camera and respond.

So, we do that and this. After all, why would we not?

In an earlier post, I talked about lessons to be learned from the dawn and the breaking open of the day.

What then is to be learned from the other end of the day, when the shell begins to close, when darkness weighs ever heavier on the day and draws its korowai westwards across the land? When we begin to slow down and pull the strands of our Self tighter and tauter, in preparation for the night, and a journey beyond the confines of our immediate senses.

 Each morning the Flower of Possibility opens her petals outwards for us. And each evening, the reverse occurs; the petals draw back together. It is a time to return inwards, and to reflect upon what has passed during the day; and in some cases, who has passed.

 Each day, as the shadows lengthen, the light softens and the village empties, of people and purpose and human ritual, I have the waterfront to myself, with only the soft whisper of the wind and the gentle insistence of the water across the road to keep me company. I will often take my director’s chair outside onto the footpath, and sit with a glass or two of wine to keep me company. I will watch the last of the day trickling away, as the last sunlight butters the low hills of Hapanga, and the sky fades to purples and then to black. I will reflect upon the day and my movement through it, and wonder what will be brought to me to learn later , in the recesses of the night, in the mysterious space between the setting and rising of the sun, when I am asleep. I may write, or I may just simply sit.  Either is fine and perfect.

Vespers is a liturgy as old as the Christian Church, and the first of the canonical hours. It points backwards at the day just gone and forwards at the day to come. It prepares us for the crossing of the Plains of the Night, a place through which we must all pass at the end of each day, with no guarantee that we will emerge at daybreak on the other side. It invokes the help of the Guide to keep us safe.

And evening is a time to close the shutters of the day and turn inwards, for remembrance and gratitude; to recall Mahatma Gandhi’s wonderful statement:

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die.

And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”


3 Responses

  1. Michael Dunn says:

    Tony. Thank you for your morning and evening meditations. These are exquisite interpretations of the Creator’s work. Thank you for sharing what you were inspired to capture at these special moments in your daily time. Like Matins and Vespers, in the Divine Office, the daily cycle of prayers and meditations in the Christian contemplative tradition, these two events book-end the working day. There are other prayers scheduled to be recited or, preferably, sung at intervals during both the day and the night, following a triennial cycle – covering more than a thousand days with different chants for each of the Hours. These were designed to provide a basis for reflection and contemplation during the time until the next of the Hours. Your images and words provoke a similar kind of response in me. Keep them coming!

  2. Tony Bridge says:

    kia ora Michael:
    Thank you for your kind comments.

  3. Martin Smith says:

    There are far greater treasures than Taize (I find it a cult not to my liking and think that heir music is ersatz compared to real chant) Chartres, Rocamadour, Notre-Dame, Solesmes (if you like Gregorian chant), Assy, Rheims, all the Romanesque churches, and so on. Try reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain – especially Chapter 2 on France. I would say you’d mesh with him. I have a feeling his father was from New Zealand. His father was an artist. You have produced a miraculous picture here: quite impossible without the most sophisticated equipment and skills. Here it is close to the British painter John Miller – also Christian-Anglican; and a great lover of Cornwall.

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