Saturday, June 12, 2021

"The sea is so vast and my boat so small"

We have been privileged, over the past few weeks, to host a very special exhibition, a flotilla of tiny golden boats sailing on the altar in the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane.

Entitled "Do the little things"  it is the work of Jake Lever, who art has a quiet power that has engaged visitors in other cathedrals than ours. About this work his website says

 Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things.’  St David 589 AD

Through the pandemic, Jake turned to making tiny golden boats, sending them to people he cared about as a kind of silent, wordless communication, heart to heart. These small gestures - ‘little things’ - have started to form a web stretching far and wide, a visual expression of our universal human need for belonging and connection. 

I love this concept and was thrilled to be able to include my son and his fiancee in the web, as they announced their engagement when I couldn't be with them to share hugs and celebrations. A tiny golden boat symbolises all I want for their lives - calm sea and prosperous voyage .

There was a wonderful serendipity which brought the boats to Coventry the same weekend as the Lampedusa Cross made from the timber of a wrecked refugee boat, a reminder of all those for whom the Breton fisherman's prayer

"O God be good to me. The sea is so vast and my boat so small"

is not a metaphor at all but a cry from deep need and pressing reality.

But I had not really engaged with the significance of their presence there in Gethsemane til Thursday, when I took my turn in the SCP annual journey through the octave of Corpus Christi, "Adorate". I had signed myself, and the Cathedral, up for an hour of Eucharistic devotion, and found myself placing my tiny chapel monstrance on the altar among the tiny boats.

And they spoke to one another. 

Oh, how they spoke to one another!

Of the loving web of connection that binds humanity to God, despite all that we might do to sever the links.

Of the fragility of the Incarnation - Christ launched in vulnerability into our world, travelling in a body subject to time and decay and to all the anger of unloving humanity.

Of the fragility of the Sacrament - the life of God offered to us, week in week out in a fragment of bread 

After a year when that wonderful Sacrament has not been available to everyone, when we have perhaps found ourselves forced to deal with Eucharistic absence, it felt incredibly special to be consciously focussed on presence instead...on the reality of Christ's love revealed in microcosm there on the altar.

The hour I spent was truly balm for the soul - and I found myself reflecting on the fact that we all travel though life, however fragile our vessels, on the boundless ocean of God's love. Cathedral life ebbed and flowed about me, a handful of visitors came in, some to take pictures, others to pray, and through it all that golden threat anchored me and I knew, and I know, that it extends across space and time, and leads us safely home.

Sweet Sacrament of rest,
ark from the ocean's roar,
within thy shelter blest
soon may we reach the shore;