Bella commented yesterday that words and poetry may help one through times of change, readjustment and grief. I think she's right. I've written before how one particular book helped me through the week following my mother's death. That book was A Year Of Grace: Passages Chosen And Arranged To Express A Mood About God And Man - compiled by Victor Gollancz (yes, that's the Victor Gollancz, the famous publisher) and published by Penguin Books in 1955, the year after I was born. It's a 550 page treasure house of spiritual and philosophical quotations. I turned to it again this morning.
Right at the book's beginning is The Sermon On The Mount from St Matthew's Gospel. Though I haven't read this for ages, it's astonishing how familiar it is. We must hear snatches from it all the time; it's part of our culture, part of the framework of our minds.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
First cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.
Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Just a word about my own religious beliefs. When I was young Methodism was forced onto me so much that I turned against it and against all other forms of organized, evangelical religion. But I can't help still being very interested in and often inexplicably moved by different belief systems and manifestations of the religious impulse - whether it be Catholicism on the Spanish Camino or the teachings of the Buddha or the multiform deities of Hinduism or pre-Christian paganism or the mystical individualism of the early Christian saints. I suppose you could call me both an agnostic and a spiritual seeker.