A Sunday morning without church feels very strange indeed — especially since I am feeling well enough to notice the strangeness of it, without being well enough to have coped with doing it all. So, it was with fresh eyes (and deeper need) that I came to morning prayer.
There is such graciousness about the Advent office. Even the set prayers seem to be more spacious and giving. First in the opening prayers:
Blessed are you Sovereign God of all
to you be praise and glory for ever
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you
and then in the wonderful antiphon for the Benedictus:
Like the sun in the morning sky,
the Saviour of the world will dawn;
like rain upon the meadows,
the Christ will come down upon us.
In a season that so often feels frenzied, and after days of thinking ‘how will I ever get it all done?’ it is good to remember the inevitability of Christ’s coming. Its completeness. God’s ability to rain down upon us whether we are ready or not.
And after prayers of light dawning and the promise of drenching grace, I stumbled across a fit image of the wonder of it all. A Mandelbrot set. (thanks to Bishop Alan)
When I was 15, Mandelbrot came to lecture to us. It was one of the most remarkable hours of my life. I knew that I did not understand. But there was just enough understanding, a flickering hope on the edge of my consciousness, that I was enthralled. I have only ever known that feeling again in prayer — that feeling of something (someone) dancing right on the edge of perception, which evaporates as soon as you try too hard to understand.
But of course, when Mandelbrot came to us, we did not have the luxury of computers in every room. If you click on the links below, or go to YouTube and search for Mandelbrot sets, you will find ‘zoom’ videos of carefully coloured fractals. They are stunningly beautiful: infinitely repeating, endlessly variable; Blake’s ‘infinity in the palm of your hand/ and eternity in an hour’.
Wikipedia on Mandelbrot (good pictures too)