In Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire there is a floor. A stone floor worn by the feet of countless monks who, in years long past, made their way into the Abbey to say their prayers. Nine times a day they crossed that floor, this floor:
Like a map that stone now tells the story of their faithful prayer, in the dark and cold, in the heat and bright sun. I was transfixed by this stone when I saw it, so transfixed I ended up taking a picture because I just didn’t want to leave it behind, that was seven years ago, seven years ago when I took that picture, seven years when I stared and got stared at as I knelt to touch the cold stone.
With digital imaging we take so many pictures these days, on our phones and cameras. Once we used to take care with our 24 or 36 shots and then wait in hopeful anticipation for them to return from being developed, now we click and share and pictures are forgotten, so common place, so numerous. When once we hoped we might have caught the moment, now we have a dozen or maybe more pictures of that moment to choose from. Yet do we remember them, those pictures, those moments?
On Thursday, as I sat on the underground smelling the incense on my clothes, rolling with the swaying carriage, this picture and that moment can powerfully back to me. I was making my way home from St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow.
Thursday was the day the Church remembered the institution of Holy Communion, Corpus Christi. A remembrance not like that of Maundy Thursday when we recall the Last Supper and its part in the pathway leading to Christ’s death – the remembrance of a leaving. This time around it is about the glory of the risen ascended life which brings about Christ’s constant presence with us – as the Eucharistic Prayer puts it, ‘in every place, for ever’. The mystery of Christ’s presence in the seemingly ordinary, everyday, commonplace, in the Bread.
Why, you may be wondering, did the memory of this floor come back to me? I took but one shot of that floor, this one, and it wasn’t until I got back to where we were staying and I looked at my photos on the laptop that I realised I had ended up taking a picture which had, right in the centre, a petal crushed into it.
God had broken through, on that floor worn by those white monks travelling to recite their tireless prayers. God broke through, there where the daily routine left its mark, another mark too was left. God broke through, outside the place the faithful had travelled to chant those holy words. Outside the place marked as sacred, God broke through.
I knew God would turn up on Thursday night, with the clouds of smoke hanging in the air, the ringing of bells, the soaring music. Among the faithful, I was prepared, I had waited expectedly all day for Christ’s presence to flood the Cathedral, but God always offers more.
God broke through, in those petals tumbling through the air and landing on the the Cathedral floor. God broke through the centuries, the millennium, through eternity and turned up not just where God was expected to be, but in other places too. The Lord was high and lifted up and God’s glory broke through and filled the temple … and the underground.