It would take a novelist to capture the grimness of Ireland in the grip of winter. At times it feels like a black and white film of an Eastern European country in the days of Communist rule; the administration is as responsive to public opinion as were the apparatchiks of the Soviet powers.
Turning from the unrelenting greyness of the news, thoughts turned to Sunday. It does not seem like Advent; it does not seem that Christmas lies just three weeks away. The slow inkjet printer beside the computer slowly ran off sheets for Sunday’s worship. The Anglican prayer said each day of Advent offered a ray of sunshine in the midst of the freezing fog and the black ice
Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness,
and put upon us the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which thy Son Jesus Christ
came to visit us in great humility;
that in the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty
to judge both the quick and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Spirit, now and ever.
But what it doesn’t say is what the life immortal will include. What will heaven be like?
A favourite poem, Charlotte Mew’s ‘Old Shepherd’s Prayer’, written in West Country dialect, has a vision of heaven unlike any other
Heavenly Master, I wud like to wake to they same green places
Where I be know’d for breakin’ dogs and follerin’ sheep.
And if I may not walk in th’ old ways and look on th’ old faces
I wud sooner sleep.
What should my heaven include?
If it is not drinking tea at the fireside with Davey and Mary; if it is not standing with Noel at a country church door; if it is not Tom waltzing around a hospital ward; if it not laughter on a Wednesday afternoon with Ros and Rosalie, then I would sooner sleep.
If it is not the little ones who lived a short life, and the little ones who had no chance of life, growing up healthy and well, then I would sooner sleep.
If it is not a new world where the crops grow, and the mosquitoes hold no fear, and AIDS no longer exists, and drought is unknown, and every woman and man are rewarded for their labours, then I would sooner sleep.
If heaven is a place where the old shepherd wud sooner sleep, then I think I wud sooner join him.